Guys and Dolls
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, music and lyrics by Frank Loesser
Robert Hastie’s production of Guys and Dolls is a joyful Christmas treat. Based on stories by Damon Runyon, it summons up a cast of colourful characters drawn from the New York underworld of gangsters, petty criminals and obsessive gamblers.
Chief among these is Nathan Detroit who runs the crap games that draw in punters like Sky Masterson, so-called because his bets are ‘sky high’. The gambling action is leavened by two parallel romances, one between Detroit and the long-suffering Miss Adelaide, who has been engaged to him for 14 years, and the second, based on a bet, between confirmed bachelor Masterson and the prim and proper Sarah Brown, a sergeant in the Salvation Army.
The production sits perfectly on the open Crucible stage and Janet Bird’s clever set of framework structures and contrary revolves provides spaces to accommodate the Mission Hall, a sleazy night club, New York street scenes and the subterranean venue of the much-awaited crap game. The action is always perfectly visible and moves at a cracking pace, finding plenty of space for the frequent and dynamic dance routines.
The wit of the book is complemented by acting performances which make the most of the comic potential of the writing. Alex Young and Kadiff Kirwan bring emotional depth to the characterisation of Sarah Brown and Masterson without losing the humour and the night out in Havana when Sarah lets her hair down is particularly entertaining.
Martin Marquez’s strong performance as Nathan Detroit binds the whole together, is convincingly characterised and beautifully sung. His desperate efforts to find a venue for the crap game and to avoid an end to the prolonged engagement spark a brilliantly outrageous performance from Natalie Casey whose "Adelaide’s Lament" in the first half nearly brings the house down.
There are flawless performances from every member of the cast, including a thrilling rendition by T J Lloyd of the well-known "Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat".
Musical supervisor Will Stuart has had an important role in re-orchestrating Frank Loesser’s original music to fit the requirements of this particular production. He also conducts the unusually large band, sited where we can see them above the stage action, which is bursting with brass instruments which provide a particularly rich and resonant tone and huge impetus for the dance routines.
Visually the production is stunning. The outfits for the gambling punters are colourful and varied and include rakish trilbies which capture the mood of the time. The Salvation Army outfits are a cheerful red and contrast excitingly with the much flimsier, feathered costumes of the night club performers and the dancers in the Havana scenes.
Matt Flint’s choreography is exceptional and brilliantly performed by the large chorus of dancers, who bring athletic skills to the gambling scenes and huge vitality to the night club sequences. As with other aspects of the production, wit, artistry and humour predominate.
This is a fluid, colourful, dynamic production with so much to enjoy and appreciate. At the end, a happy audience rose to give an extended standing ovation.
Reviewer: Velda Harris