Guys and Dolls – Savoy Theatre

Sophie Thompson (Miss Adelaide) and David Haig (Nathan Detroit) in Guys and Dolls - photo by Paul Coltas

Sophie Thompson and David Haig in Guys and Dolls at the Savoy Theatre, London. Picture: Paul Coltas

Guys and Dolls continues at the Savoy Theatre, London until 12 March 2016.

Star rating: five stars ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The extraordinarily effective and skilful use of stillness and silence is what I shall remember first about this show. As a whole it’s glitzy, funny and pulsating with energy as it sails triumphantly on to its feel good finale. But composer and lyricist Frank Loesser knew his trade (along with librettists Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, together with their inspiration Damon Runyon), like few others, and it’s an immaculately well-paced piece with plenty of mood contrast. Add to that a magnificent cast and choreography (by Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright) to die for, with timing which allows the audience space to think and appreciate, and you’ve got one of the best musical productions I’ve seen in a long time.

Jamie Parker, who is a fine singer as well as actor, exudes delicious sexual charisma, tempered with growing humility as Sky Masterson, finding love and a conscience. David Haig, now one of our most accomplished actors, finds kindness and decency in the often wrong-footed Nathan Detroit along with the weak-willed compulsive gambler and reluctant bridegroom. And Haig’s modest competence as a singer is more than satisfactorily offset by his acting strength. There’s also a sho-stopping rendering of ‘Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ led by Gavin Spokes with fabulous panache.

Sophie Thompson’s high-voiced Miss Adelaide, hobbling around in her platform soles, is a terrific performance from the bravura dance sequences (especially ‘Take Back Your Mink’) in the nightclub to the contrasting sad but funny neediness in the scenes with Nathan. And Siubhan Harrison delights as initially earnest Salvationist Sarah Brown trying, and of course eventually failing, to resist Sky Masterson’s charms. The drunken scene in Havana is a theatrical tour de force – as is almost every ensemble scene in this show. The dancing is top notch: fast and spectacular with lots of rapid cartwheels, flips and lifts, along with flamboyant legwork.

And underscoring it all there’s Gareth Valentine, conducting the singing more assertively than many musical directors and managing a splendid band in the pit. His attention to musical detail ensures that the audience notices and enjoys every nuance of orchestration.

This excellent show is a credit to its director Gordon Greenberg and yet another West End transfer triumph for Chichester Festival Theatre.

Susan Elkin

Book tickets for Guys and Dolls at the Savoy Theatre HERE

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