Guys & Dolls

Celebrating the show’s first anniversary, Nicholas Hytner’s sensational, immersive production of Guys & Dolls continues at the Bridge Theatre with a new lineup of stars, that is guaranteed to ensure its run for some considerable time.

In a league of its own and is pure theatre

Frank Loesser’s musical, with book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, is packed with famous tunes and it’s hard to imagine any production not making a success from a score and libretto that offers so many opportunities to excel in the genre. Hytner’s vivid imagination and creativity, however, take this production to a level that rises above all expectations. He has the enormous advantage of a versatile space that can be transformed from a flat floor by raising the platforms from below to different heights to give a variety of stage configurations in terms of levels and shapes. More importantly, he is an accomplished theatre director who knows all about the use of space and how to control the audience’s focus.

In the vast floor area standing members of the audience are brought forward and pushed back to be always wrapped around the stages and up close to the action. At times they become extras, seated at tables or dragged into the scene. A large team of stage hands or movement stewards, dressed as New York City cops, are charged with the choreography of these changes; their management of this huge undertaking almost becoming a show in itself for those seated in the tiers of the vast theatre. It’s all done on a grand scale, with the Tommy Entrata orchestra conducted by Tom Brady extending the action onto the first tier.

The story is ingeniously crafted around the pairing of opposites in a romantic comedy set in New York and Havana. Newcomers Owain Arthur and Timmika Ramsay star as Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide. Detroit is a likeable con-man who spends his time finding venues for his illegal, but highly popular crap games. She is a showgirl who after 14 years of being engaged to Detroit still believes that one day he will marry her. Meanwhile she continues with her job that provides the excuse for some outstanding song and dance numbers choreographed by Arlene Phillips with James Cousins. Costumes by Bunny Christie and Deborah Andrews add a glamorous dimension to these routines, with all the creative elements coming together in such spectacular numbers as A Bushel And A Peck and the act two opener, Take Back Your Mink, of which there is an abundance wrapped around her shoulders.

In addition to her stunning showtime song and dance routines, she can also ring the changes with songs such as Adelaide’s Lament. Importantly, Ramsay portrays the love Miss Adelaide has for Detroit in an entirely convincing, sincere manner, while making her repeated protestations equally amusing. Arthur in turn gets plenty of laughs for his quick-thinking in order to change the subject and the busy time he has charging around organising the floating crap game.

George Ioannides and Celinde Schoenmaker continue their stunning performances in the other lead roles of Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown. Detroit finally runs out of money to fund the premises for his games. Masterson is prepared to gamble on anything and accepts Detroit’s bet that he can’t get Brown, the morally upright and virtuous Sergeant of the Broadway’s Save-a-Soul Mission, to go on a date with him to Cuba, in return for funding the next game. You can guess how that works out when they discover there’s more freedom in the country than just the Cuba Libre. Earlier on Schoenmaker has made her position clear with regard to the evils of gambling and drink and how she will know when the right man comes along; a heartfelt rendition of I’ll Know makes that clear. But the barriers break down and we are treated to her joyous If I Were A Bell, the contrasting melancholy My Time Of Day from the suave Ioannides and the act one closing number sung together of I’ve Never Been In Love Before. Later Ioannides joins the Crapshooters in a ripping rendition of Luck Be a Lady, that demonstrates another side to his singing capabilities.

But the big blockbuster of the show goes to none of these characters. Instead, it’s reserved for one of the crap game guys, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, played by Jonathan Andrew Hume. Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat is a breathtaking triumph, choreographed on a tight space in the mission house with all the chairs set out for the congregation. It seems an impossible task, but the chairs became the essential props for an array of routines, as Hume milks the song for all its worth. With some rehearsed beseeching of the conductor he gets three reprises out of it, and we were still asking for more!

There’s a host of talent in every aspect of this show. Whether you’re a lover of musicals or not this one is in a league of its own and is pure theatre. It’s no wonder it won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Musical in 2023. Don’t miss it.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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★★★★
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★★★★
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★★
Old Red Lion Pub

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★★★
Westcliff High School For Boys

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★★★★★
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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Nicholas Hytner’s critically acclaimed immersive production, Guys & Dolls is delighted to unveil an exciting lineup of new cast members ahead of the show’s first anniversary.

Guys & Dolls – a musical fable of Broadway, based on the story and characters of Damon Runyon – opened on 14 March 2023, marking Hytner’s first musical presented at the Bridge Theatre. The award-winning musical takes its audience on a whirlwind adventure from Broadway to Havana.  The seating is wrapped around the action while the immersive tickets transport you to the streets of Manhattan and the bars of Havana in the unlikeliest of love stories.

Join us on Broadway for the explosion of joy that is Guys & Dolls.

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