When it comes to musical theatre, Guys and Dolls is a bonafide American classic. Inspired by the betting and gambling side of New York City that spilled from the pen of the great Damon Runyan, Guys and Dolls is a world where every man is, on the surface at least, a no-good heel, and every woman is a doll, a dame, a broad, but it is also warm and funny, and ultimately a love story where true love does conquer all. The latest touring production opened at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre last night and proved that its power to entertain and enchant audiences shows no signs of flagging. It was, in short, brilliant.
For those who are unfamiliar with the plot, Guys and Dolls tells the story of two gamblers, Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson. Nathan has been engaged to showgirl Miss Adelaide for 14 years, but is still reluctant to be tied down, especially as he is ever ensconced in the setting up of illegal crap games. Sky is a master gambler who likes to bet on the strangest of things, which is how he takes a bet with Nathan to take Sister Sarah Brown of the Salvation Army to Cuba on a date. But human foibles and true love have a way of changing life directions, and the trip to Cuba, along with the problems in finding a venue for the crapshoot ensure that live will never be the same again for Nathan and Sky.
As Sky, Richard Fleeshman is magnificent. He dominates the stage with his powerful vocals and sheer masculinity and lithe athleticism. Bethany Lindsell as Sarah Brown is perfect foil, slight and pretty, but also feisty and spirited in her gutsy, tipsy performance of ‘If I were a bell’, one of my high points of the first act, one which showed the real chemistry between the leads.
Nathan and Miss Adelaide are also brilliant. Maxwell Caulfield is just right as the laconic ageing gambler Nathan, and teamed with the hilariously loveable Louise Dearman as Miss Adelaide, complete with her psychological cold, you have a couple you are totally routing for. The supporting cast are also excellent, with special mentions needed for Jack Edwards as the rotund Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Cameron Johnson as Big Jule. Both shine, especially in the show-stopping scene in the Salvation Army meeting, with Edwards perfomance of the gospel tinged classic ‘Sit down, you’re rockin the boat’ totally raising the roof (I defy you not to have jazz hands by the end of this.)
The songs are timeless classics, with the aforementioned ‘Sit down you’re rockin the boat’ and ‘Luck be a lady tonight’ as standouts. The set too is also impressive, with neon lighting used to evoke a seedier, night time version of New York.
Guys and Dolls is the last production at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre before the Summer refurbishment, and is playing until Saturday. For ticket information click here.