Eileen Caiger Gray reviews Guys and Dolls at Sheffield Lyceum
Guys and Dolls, a musical that’s been playing for over 60 years now, is still always a firm favourite. So why’s that? Comedy, romance, a strong story, classy classic songs by Frank Loesser, dancing and dice games in an underworld of gamblers, crooks and hoods who all end up at the Sally Army mission – and then two weddings! Ah, say no more!
In a feast of uplifting visual splendour, Peter McKintosh’s set and costumes create a delicious flavour of 1940’s New York. Beneath the smartly chopped shapes of advertisements, blue-grey mists swirl across underground crap games, or alternately, brightly flashing coloured lights take us to the Hot Box dance joint or – with the addition of palm trees and the odd bare torso – to exotic Havana. An impressively clad array of sailors, policemen, hookers, guys and dolls pass by the handsome shoe-shine stand and the crazy-angled Mission building, filling the stage with life and bustle as our main trilby-wearing protagonists, dressed, of course, in loud suits fashioned in offensive plaids, enact the drama.
While the fiery, highly accomplished talents of Andy Massey’s musicians delight in their own right , invigorating a score that includes big standards like Luck Be a Lady and If I were a Bell, the vivacious, acrobatic choreography of Carlos Acosta (no less!) and Andrew Wright brings further special treats, courtesy of the energetic, multi-role ensemble.
Real show stealer is Louise Dearman as Miss Adelaide, fiancee to Nathan Detroit for 14 long years and a broad who suffers from a permanent cold. Warm, endearing and funny, Dearman has great stage presence and engages intimately with her audience. Her accent and splendidly nuanced and accomplished singing make the most of her comic role without going over the top, while her duets bring extra sparkle from co-singers, too, as when she sings with Anna O’Byrne as Sarah in Marry the Man or with Maxwell Caulfield as Nathan in Sue Me.
The Stubby-Kaye-shaped Jack Edwards is also nicely cast as Nicely Nicely Johnson. His number, Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, always a biggie, packs wow factors all round on the choreography and singing fronts. As gambler Sky Masterton, in black shirt and white tie, Richard Fleeshman looks the part as he falls for mission worker Sarah. His projection of both sung and spoken word, though, could benefit from improvement in various places so it might always match the excellent delivery of the other leads.
Eileen Caiger Gray
The show now tours until the end of July, taking in Dublin, Norwich, Southampton, Leeds, Plymouth, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Canterbury, Cardiff, Bristol, Wolverhampton and Woking.