Guys & Dolls ★★★★★ Bridge Theatre | Until January 4, 2025

Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows' classic show is always a good bet, but this current production is definitely a runaway winner. Director Nicholas Hytner has staged an immersive version that beautifully brings the audience into Damon Runyon's Broadway demimonde of gamblers, showgirls and gangsters. Audience members can choose to stand and mingle with the cast, or they can sit and simply observe the action as various platform stages are imaginatively transformed into the various locales of the story. The herding of the standees at various points can be a little distracting, but this is more than compensated for by the energetic atmosphere created by their presence amongst the cast. The story is simple enough. The unlikely love affair between the suave high-roller, Sky Masterson, and the pious Salvationist, Sister Sarah is counterpointed by the marriage-minded showgirl Miss Adelaide and her long-standing engagement to the commitment-averse gambler, Nathan Detroit. To the role of Sarah, Celinde Schoenmaker brings a stunning voice and some terrific comic timing while George Ioannides is suitably sexy and slick as Masterson. We missed the zaniness of Vivian Blaine's Miss Adelaide in Timmika Ramsay's more grounded portrayal, but both she and Owain Arthur as Nathan Detroit rose to the occasion with their duet "Sue Me." It's a simply brilliant moment. However, the definitive showstopper of the piece has to be the infectious "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." As Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Jonathan Andrew Hume squeezed everything there was out of the show's familiar favourite. It stood in lovely contrast to Niall Buggy's poignant rendition of "More I Cannot Wish You." Indeed, all of the cast manages to catch the fanciful spirit of the piece and to convey the whimsy and wit of Runyon's world. Guys & Dolls is a Man o' War of a musical and this production is the Red Rum of revivals.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Manuel Harlan

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