Here’s the strange thing. I am a huge fan of musicals, to the point of obsessed (I spent five hours on a gross-smelling bus to London last Boxing Day, to see Hamilton a second time.)
Until now though, I had never seen Guys And Dolls, one of the best loved musicals in the world ever. Time to put right that glaring omission, and who better to assist me than the ever reliable York Light?
Guys And Dolls by York Light
York Theatre Royal
Till March 17
Adapted from Damon Runyon’s stories of 1920s and 30s New York, the plot centres around Nathan Detroit’s search for a venue for his illegal floating crap game (not a value judgement, it’s a dice game); Miss Adelaide’s attempts to pin him down to a wedding date after a 14-year engagement, and the unlikely love story of gambler Sky Masterson and Sergeant Sarah Brown of the Save A Soul Mission.
From the moment the band begins the overture it is clear we are in good hands with musical director John Atkin. The music is outstanding, noticeably the brass section, as is the quality of the singing throughout.
Martyn Knight and Sue Hawksworth direct a hugely talented ensemble who are clearly having a wonderful time up there. Humour is well-timed, characters memorably portrayed and even the cameos (a fake blind beggar, giggling teenagers, a disgruntled street drinker) are done with panache.
George Morgan as Sky and Annabel van Griethuysen as Sarah are new to the company, but I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of these stand-out performers. Their Havana scenes were a particular highlight.
Along with Andy Roberts as Nathan and Rachael Wilkinson as Adelaide, it’s a very strong quartet of leads, all with great voices. I particularly enjoyed I’ve Never Been in Love Before and Sue Me.
Geoffrey Turner also shines as Arvide Abernathy, with his warm, perfectly nuanced rendition of More I Cannot Wish You, as do Jack Porter as Harry The Horse and Geoff Walker as the volatile Big Jule.
Sparkling Hot Box Girls
Miss Adelaide and her Hot Box Girls sparkle, with flawless dancing and abundant sass – I’d have liked to see more of them.
The justly famous numbers from the show, Luck be A Lady Tonight, (a West End-worthy vocal from George Morgan, backed by an impressive male ensemble) and Richard Bayton (Nicely Nicely)’s Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat, did not disappoint, although I felt the former could perhaps have benefitted from more ambitious choreography.
It was also good to see so many up and coming young performers from York Light Youth amongst the supporting cast. Their energy and considerable talents are an asset to the adult company.
Sets are beautifully detailed and evocative, but the scene changes were very noisy on opening night – something I expect will improve as the show settles in.
Some of the show’s attitudes are rather dated and sexist, but for a musical first produced in 1950 I suppose that’s to be expected. At times though, the stereotypes are satisfyingly challenged – Miss Adelaide’s reading of psychology textbooks, Sky Masterson’s extensive Bible knowledge, for instance.
The shoes (shiny two-tone Oxfords, skyscraper heels) are fabulous and show an admirable dedication to detail.
By the end of the night the crapshooters are reformed characters (if only temporarily) Sarah has got her man, Adelaide’s cold seems to have cleared up, and I’ve remedied the glaring omission in my Musical Theatre fangirl knowledge. Great job, York Light – awesome, wow!