BWW Reviews: GUYS AND DOLLS, Chichester Festival Theatre, August 21st 2014
Guys and Dolls is possibly the finest musical ever written.
We in the UK have enjoyed some fabulous productions of it - and Gordon Greenberg's new vision of it at Chichester now joins that list.
Peter Polycarpou and Sophie Thompson grab the limelight as the ageing Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide on their circuitous route to the altar; Thompson in particular shines, imbuing lines with just the right amount of innuendo and delivering them so effortlessly and fantastically that even the most familiar of them generates a roar of laughter.
Jamie Parker is a surprisingly suave Sky Masterson; it's not every actor who has the necessary charisma to carry off this fabulously well-written role, and even fewer manage to convince as the hardened gambler begins to reassess his life choices through song and dance.
Clare Foster's Sergeant Sarah Brown, meanwhile, is a little harder to warm to; the interpretation felt rather bland and although she hits her high notes beautifully there just seemed to be a spark of originality and fire missing.
That's perhaps even more marked in a company so filled with character and talent and uniqueness of vocals - the contrasting pairing of Harry Morrison and Ian Hughes (as Nicely-Nicely and Benny Southstreet respectively), the Scottish tones of Neil McCaul as Arvide Abernathy, and the soprano riffing of Melanie La Barrie (a gospel-tinged General Cartwright).
The dance numbers, of course, are tightly choreographed and beautifully executed - one suspects that the reliable hand of Andrew Wright kept a hand on the tiller while Carlos Acosta made his musical theatre choreographic debut, particularly with some innovation in the Havana scene.
The set design on stage looks simple but is smart and effective - a collage of ads with a string of light bulbs interspersed to create a New York skyline when necessary; a raunchy red curtain from which the Hot Box Girls emerge; and a small mission is quite large enough for a rousing rendition of Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat.
To be honest, it's hard to do a bad job with material as wonderful as Guys and Dolls (although the last Broadway revival had a good go) - but this is a special production that will leave you smiling and singing all the way home.
Guys and Dolls runs at the Chichester Festival Theatre.