Review: Guys and Dolls, Chichester Festival Theatre

“If I were a watch I’d start popping my springs!”

From the opening moments of an overture that demands the attention, it is clear that Chichester’s revival of the Broadway classic Guys and Dolls is going to be a scorcher. Director Gordon Greenberg utilises not only Carlos Acosta as choreographer but also Andrew Wright as a co-choreographer and the combination of the two is simply explosive – these are no two-bit routines that people are shuffling around, this is proper dance and it is thrilling to behold.

It helps of course to be connected to Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’ amiable book, based on Damon Runyon’s characters, about the travails of a bunch of New York gamblers, and Frank Loesser’s evergreen music and lyrics which churns out classic after classic after classic. Greenberg wisely doesn’t interfere much at all with the material, just cultivating warmth from all of his performers and particularly his two leading couples, making them utterly adorable.

Jamie Parker’s Sky Masterson is a real gentleman, a swoonsomely smooth voice melding with an effortless charisma which tumbles entirely for the gorgeous soprano of Clare Foster’s Sarah Brown, who unwinds beautifully under his attention – she has long been a performer to watch out for but here, she really excels. Peter Polycarpou’s cuddly wheeler-dealer Nathan Detroit oozes charms and Sophie Thompson delivers a brilliant take on Miss Adelaide, deliciously comic yet deeply moving in pursuit of the thing she wants the most.

Great work appears throughout the company though – Ian Hughes’ Benny and Nic Greenshields’ visiting Big Jule have standout moments and as Nicely-Nicely and General Cartwright, Harry Morrison and Melanie La Barrie take it to CHURCH with ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat’. Peter McKintosh’s design is marvellously simple yet hugely effective with its light-up panels and pop-up palm. Pure escapist musical theatre heaven.

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 21st September

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