Guys and Dolls, Bridge theatre – buckets of fun
Critic Kenneth Tynan described Guys and Dolls as “the Beggar’s Opera of Broadway”, which articulates how earnestly this least earnest of musicals is, and should be, taken.
Frank Loesser’s legendary show may be a classic Broadway fairytale, but here it is, reimagined in a radically immersive production that is full of fun and intimate detail. (make sure you grab a pretzel and beer pre-show)
So much of this perfectly calibrated machine hits the mark.
Even the overture, played with gusto by the 14-piece swing band under Tom Brady’s baton, creates a sense of anticipatory excitement.
From the beginning, the delightful show just pulls you in. Everything is bursting with energy and full of panache. It’s fresh minted but old school and owes much to Arlene Phillips smashing choreography. It animates every scene, it’s exquisitely put together.
I especially liked Daniel Mays as crumpled and charming Nathan Detroit and Marisha Wallace a sizzling Miss Adelaide, ‘the well-known fiancée’.
Wallace makes the often twee ‘Bushel and a Peck’ a raunchy strip tease – with carrots. As a performer, she has a special kind of chicness that takes the form of haste; she’s always ahead of everybody, and this snappy beat – this responsiveness – makes her more exciting to watch, as she was in the Young Vic’s Oklahoma! It is her show.
Elsewhere, Sister Sarah (Celinde Schoenmaker), falls hard for the smooth-talking gambler, Sky Masterson (Andrew Richardson) and they are compelling.
As for the remainder of this large cast, they dance and sing themselves right into the top league of quality musical performances. Backed up with stunning arrangements and an expert technical team, dressed as New York cops, the actors and musicians really do justice to this outstanding score.
Powered by Bunny Christie’s effective bygone orange and scarlet 1950s in-the-round aesthetic, scenes are staged on hydraulic platforms that shift around a standing audience. There’s seating if you prefer. Stagehands jostle in the neon glow, guided by the gorgeous music, while the audience is swept along. It’s such a lifter.
The Bridge theatre’s Guys and Dolls restored my faith in musical theatre. It’s a pure emotional high, and you don’t come down when the show is over. None of the big numbers disappoint, from the thrilling dancing of ‘Luck Be a Lady’ to an especially gold rendition of ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat’ led by Cedric Neal.
Hytner’s production is a show that you can’t get out of your system.
I for one can’t wait to go again.
This review is dedicated to Bridge theatre PR Janine Shalom. Was she really that exacting? Yes. But she was able to laugh at herself, and I very much admired her for that.