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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  London Theatre Reviews

 
GUYS AND DOLLS
at Savoy Theatre

ROMANTIC REDEMPTION
By SAM MARLOWE

  Ph: Paul Coltas

A blaze of lights, a blast of irresistible sass, and Gordon Greenberg’s production of this classic of American musical theatre, which transfers to the West End after an acclaimed run in Chichester, blasts away the January gloom. Everything on stage in Greenberg’s exuberant staging and Peter McKintosh’s economically clever design seems to twinkle and entice, blink and wink – from the brash vintage ads offering up their blandishments to buy soda or toothpaste with the broadest of grins, to the knicker-flashing girls with curls, the sharp-suited boys they flirt and canoodle with, even the boozers, their hats and ties awry, weaving tipsily as they slug from paper bags.
 
Frank Loesser’s songs are, of course, the show’s great glory, tumbling one after the other and sparkling like diamond-studded dice: "Luck Be a Lady," "Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat," "I’ve Never Been in Love Before" among them. Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’ Damon Runyon-inspired book is well served here, too, with plenty of pace and wit, and a standout performance from Jamie Parker, who gives the slick Broadway gambler Sky Masterson just the right dash of bad-boy cynicism, and even a faint whiff of thuggery, so that his romantic redemption really does seem like a small miracle.
 
Rich toned, sardonically amused, swaggeringly sexy, Parker sings himself with style into love with Bible-bashing mission doll Sarah Brown, even as he’s mentally trying to talk himself out of it. Unfortunately, while she’s an appealing actor, Suibhan Harrison isn’t quite vocally up to the role of this morally upright young woman taking a delicious walk on the wild side. She’s noticeably weak in her upper register, which means she can’t make the most of the ringing, ecstatic rhapsody of "If I Were a Bell." There are other flaws, too. David Haig’s crap-game fixer Nathan Detroit is entirely watchable, but a touch too cuddly. And while that gaggle of chorines, the Hot Box Girls, are a winning blend of the gawky and the raunchy, Sophie Thompson’s Miss Adelaide is somewhat forced. There’s no doubting her comic timing, and she’s skilled at delivering a faux-genteel, grammatically dubious lyric, but her hunched posture and constant mugging wear thin.
 
Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright’s choreography is full of flourish, but it’s not as organically connected to the narrative as the finest dance in musical theatre. It could do with more dramatic, character-led detail. But it does become thrilling when the illegal game, wreathed in smoke and testosterone-fuelled bravado, gets underway. And the rousing mission revival scene, led by Gavin Spokes’ golden-voiced Nicely-Nicely Johnson, would send the heaviest and unholiest heart soaring heavenwards. Quibbles aside, it ain’t no gamble – with this show, a swinging good time is guaranteed.

 


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