The older, classic musicals will always hold a special place in my heart as they are responsible for my love of musical theatre as it is today. My grandparents showed me a lot of film musicals, including Guys and Dolls with Frank Sinatra, Vivian Blaine, Jean Simmons and Marlon Brando, and to this day it’s one that always puts a smile on my face. My first opportunity to see the show live came in September 2014, when I travelled to Chichester. I remember loving every minute and was thrilled to bits hearing the news it would be transferring to London’s Savoy Theatre this year for a limited run, with some familiar and new faces!
In 1950’s New York, gambling and gangsters are rife and loveable rogue Nathan Detroit is desperate for cash so he can run his illegal dice game, and his long suffering fiancé Miss Adelaide is growing beyond tired of Nathan’s lack of commitment to end their 14 year engagement. Enter Sky Masterson, a smooth talking charmer who can’t resist the challenge of a crazy bet, and Nathan seizes his chance: he bets Sky that he can’t take a doll to Havana, a doll of Nathan’s choosing. Unluckily for Sky, Nathan chooses straight laced missionary Sergeant Sarah Brown, and in return Sky will provide a dozen genuine sinners for Sarah’s struggling mission. Surely this is one bet that Nathan absolutely won’t lose?
Generally, since I have been getting the train to London as often as possible on my own or with my carer, the journeys have been smooth and uneventful. Part of me wondered if this pattern wouldn’t continue, and sure enough I was right: we made it to the Savoy by the skin of our teeth! As such, I was grateful for the London cabbie who was willing to take me in my chair, and even more grateful for the fact the show started late….
From curtain up to curtain down, for me the show just fizzes with energy and a sense of infectious joy that never lets up. With Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright on choreography duty, I yet again fell in love with the power, pace and beauty of dance, and wished I was able to do it myself. Peter Mckintosh has once again shown why he is one of my favourite Production Designers, taking the massive sense of space and depth of the Savoy stage and transforming it into a sense of New York that feels intimate and welcoming, I was overjoyed to see the set translate so well between venues. Maestro favourite of mine Gareth Valentine is once again at the Musical Director and Supervisor helm, and the exceptional people over at Campbell Young Associates have once again given me a serious case of ‘costume envy’, I love the colour and sense of fun their designs radiate with here. Together with Lighting from Tim Mitchell, Sound by Paul Groothius and Orchestrations by the legendary Larry Blank, one might say that this production was onto a winner with me before we talk about the talent on the stage, a fair and firmly true assumption!
I remember asking Peter Polycarpou when I saw him in July if he was reprising his role of Nathan in the transfer having done it in Chichester. He informed me he wouldn’t be, due to another project (which I eventually discovered weeks later was to play Fagin in Oliver in the Leicester Curve’s production, much to my delight). It would be wrong of me to say I wasn’t a little bit disappointed by the fact I wouldn’t see Peter in the role again, but the disappointment soon turned to intrigue and excitement when I heard David Haig was joining the cast as Nathan. I had only seen David’s television work prior to seeing the show, all of which I was familiar with was quite heavy, serious drama. That in mind, I was excited to see him let loose and have fun as Nathan. And boy was it fun to watch. I felt that he doesn’t quite have the vocal prowess Peter did, but he more than makes up for this in his acting; exuding such loveable warmth and charm that it’s impossible not to fall in love with Nathan in spite of his antics and faults.
He shares wonderful chemistry with Sophie Thompson and the pair made me laugh out loud on many an occasion, individually and together. Speaking of Sophie, I believe she is once again a revelation as Miss Adelaide. She has precision comic timing and huge, joyous stage presence; I loved every second she was on stage!
Another new face for me was Siubhan Harrison as Sarah, the role I saw played by the wonderful Clare Foster in the Chichester production. I was reminded to try not to compare portrayals, especially if you liked the previous person in the role as much as I have been known to in the past, as each actor will bring something new to the role that you won’t have seen before. I felt Siubhan’s Sarah to be really earthy and honest, she does a great job with the ‘ice queen’ persona that Sky has to try and melt, and it’s really satisfying to watch her being mindful of that transition; she plays it with great grace and sensitivity and yet her take on Sarah never loses that sense of sassiness, making her a wonderful compliment to Jamie’s Sky, and though I preferred her voice in certain numbers over others, it’s a voice I’d like the chance to hear more of in future.
Having recently being catapulted to new heights with being cast as an adult Harry Potter in the upcoming Cursed Child, I’m beginning to fear and regret that my only chances of seeing Jamie Parker work will be as Sky Masterston, and I really hope I’m wrong in my feeling. His voice gives me chills and his cheeky, charming Sky has grown even more likeable since Chichester; he has great swagger and confidence, but I felt Jamie brought out Sky’s vulnerable side a lot more evidently here so to me Sky felt more well rounded as a character. There’s a wonderful duet that Sky and Sarah have called I’ve Never Been in Love Before, and Jamie in particular is a pleasure to watch: he’s a lot more angsty and frustrated than I recall him being previously, there’s a lot of anxious hand running through hair, turning away from her and such, but you can tell he really loves her and is annoyed that he can’t seem to find the right way to tell her so. It’s so endearing and made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Also, rapturous applause was deservingly given to his Luck Be A Lady and I felt incredibly privileged to hear it again.
Though the ensemble work was strong and incredibly slick across the board, I wanted a word or two on some other cast members that stood out for me: I must give a huge special mention to Gavin Spokes who gave an almighty performance as Nicely Nicely Johnson, as he was unfamiliar to me I didn’t know what to expect but from the moment he started singing I was floored by his voice and couldn’t wait for Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat, which sure enough tore the roof off! He and Ian Hughes, another familiar face from the Chichester production as Benny Southstreet were a wonderful pairing and I’d love to see them again, I couldn’t help thinking they’d be a fun pair of managers for the Opera Populaire… 😉
Neil McCaul was a charming Arbide, and Cornelius Clarke and Nic Greenshields shone as Harry the Horse and Big Jule, respectively.
I left the theatre feeling totally reenergised and uplifted, an almighty change from the mood I arrived in as a result of my various travel delays. I’m aiming to try and see the show again when it hits my local in the new year… here’s hoping for a third lucky gamble!
Guys and Dolls runs at the Savoy until March 12th, 2016 before continuing its UK tour. For details and to book tickets, visit: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/guys-and-dolls/savoy-theatre/