Still popular well over half a century since it opened on Broadway, everything rests on the roll of the dice in Guys and Dolls, the iconic musical set in Manhattan and based on the short stories of Damon Runyon. Gangsters and their molls are at the centre of the action as con man Nathan Detroit struggles to find a venue for his upcoming illegal crap game. High-rolling gambler Sky Masterson offers a solution, but only if Nathan can come up with an attractive enough bet. And he does – in the shape of uptight Evangelist missionary Sarah Brown. The subsequent shenanigans take us from Times Square via the dance clubs of Manhattan to the sewers of New York City.
This latest revival, fresh from the West End stage, proves once again what a great musical this is. This time round it has the plus of being staged with choreography masterminded by the brilliant Carlos Acosta. It is difficult – I might go further and say well-nigh impossible – to find a dancer and choreographer who can equal Acosta for Latin American rhythms that sizzle with white-hot heat. As the action switches to Havana there is just about everything here – rumba, samba, cha-cha – you name it. Ballet – of course. Full marks to the multi-faceted ensemble for coping with it all.
So bristling with talent is this Chichester Festival Theatre production that it is difficult to know where to start with the accolades, but one must begin somewhere so let us be logical and begin with the two male leads whose crap games and on-off romances form the pivot on which the plot revolves. As Sky Masterson, Richard Fleeshman cuts a debonair figure in the role of the gambler willing to take on any bet if the stakes are high enough. Fleeshman has a great tenor voice, heard to advantage in the number I’ve Never Been in Love Before at the closure of Act I. The target of his bet, with whom he ends up falling in love, is the Bible-bashing Evangelist Sarah Brown, played by Anna O’Byrne who belts out the lyrics with gusto.
That accomplished actor Maxwell Caulfield plays Detroit with a great sense of timing and a wry humour. His evident relish for the role is infectious. Caulfield’s Detroit is a likeable rogue, despite his dragging his feet where marriage is concerned: a fourteen year engagement seems a trifle overlong by any standard! The lucky lady is Miss Adelaide, lead singer and dancer at the Hot Box, the night spot where much of the action takes place. Louise Dearman, as Detroit’s fiancée whose dreams of domestic bliss are taking forever to come true , is superb, notably so in that wonderful number Take Back Your Mink. Dearman has the role down to a T – to the extent of almost stealing the show at times.
Detroit’s and Masterson’s fellow gamblers are all perfectly cast, with Jack Edwards as Nicely-Nicely Johnson and the lugubrious Craig Pinder as Harry the Horse, while Mark Sangster is a nimble-footed Benny. Boys – you were splendid. The live orchestra, under the direction of Andy Massey, provides the accompaniment to the memorable musical numbers which include that well-known Luck Be a Lady and the foot-tapping Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.
Runs until Saturday 9th July
Guys and Dolls New Theatre Cardiff
Music and Lyrics: Frank Loesser
Book: Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Director: Gordon Greenberg
Choreography: Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright
Reviewer: Barbara Michaels