Review: Guys and Dolls, Bridge Theatre

Innovative staging and some brilliant singing makes this a highly watchable Guys and Dolls at the Bridge Theatre

“The sidewalks are packed with many strange-looking citizens”

The big selling point of Nicholas Hytner’s revival of all-time classic musical Guys and Dolls is the reintroduction of the immersive staging that has been sprinkled throughout the Bridge Theatre’s offerings so far. I took advantage of it at Julius Caesar but didn’t take too kindly to it, in all honesty, opting to then sit for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and once again head for the stalls this time around. For me, it was like being pushed from pillar and post and not being the tallest, a constant worry about sightlines; for others, it is a radically exciting experience – in any case, always wear sensible shoes!

Bunny Christie’s design cleverly utilises rising platforms to mean that there should be no sightline issues now and whilst it is a good solution to evoking the changing locations of the show, it does have a bit of a distancing effect, the theatrical mechanics too much on show to be truly transformational. That said, the proximity to the performers means that there is clearly something undoubtedly special about the atmosphere on the floor that could be worth taking the risk. For however it is staged, this is a joyously exuberant musical that is a classic for a reason.

From dropping into illicit crapshoots to joining in communion at Sunday Service, slinking around the Hot Box to salsa-ing through Havana, the dalliances with sin and salvation remain evergreen. Nathan Detroit can’t quite kick his gambling habit to fully commit to fiancée Miss Adelaide, equally Sky Masterson can’t conceive that Sarah Brown could truly care for him given his own addiction to betting on anything. It’s broad and often bawdy but has a winning charm that is always hard to resist, particularly when allied with Frank Loesser’s iconic score.

I’m not 100% sure about Daniel Mays as Nathan, very much an actor who sings, but Celinde Schoenmaker’s Sarah, Andrew Richardson’s Sky and particularly Marisha Wallace’s Adelaide offer up sensational vocal work, as does Cedric Neal’s Nicely-Nicely who simply ignites the already-ecstatic ‘Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat’. Arlene Phillips’ choreography, created with James Cousins, perhaps inevitably can’t truly stretch its limbs given the choppy nature of the staging and if we’re honest, it’s altogether a rather straight revival. But that isn’t always a bad thing at all, the wheel doesn’t always need to be reinvented and this is a hit.

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