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Guys and Dolls | Bridge Theatre

As new musicals start to take over the theatrical scene, it is hard to imagine a great need for almost century old productions like Guys and Dolls to be revived. And true enough, it would be hard to imagine successful runs for these classic musicals, if it were not for their genius modernisations. Recently, it has been done with musicals such as Oklahoma! or even Cabaret, as both these shows were transformed into dark and sinister retellings of their original stories.


However, Guys and Dolls seems to have taken a separate path, creating the perfect mix of flawless in the traditional standards and ingenious modernisation, owing its splendid reinvention to director Nicholas Hytner and set and costume designer Bunny Christie. Having been nominated for 12 WhatsOnStage Awards this year and taking home the award for Best Musical Revival, it is clear that this production is one for the history books.


Previously, standing for almost three hours to watch a show would have been inconceivable and unappealing to even the most avid theatre goers, however, the staging of Guys and Dolls makes it that much simpler and so much more enjoyable. With platforms rising up and down throughout the show, the audience is carefully manoeuvred throughout the busy pit, laid out to resemble the busy streets of New York City, by ushers dressed as policemen.


Although likely to miss one or two moments on stage whilst moving around, the immersive nature of the show makes it impossible to have a single dull moment as the ushers move around set pieces and the decorations around the pit really make you feel as though you are bustling through the busy streets of New York. That being said, there are plenty of seating options available around the theatre, which would certainly make it easier to get a broader view of the show, sometimes at the expense of giving up the intimate experience of being up close to the action.



The stage of the Bridge Theatre has previously been graced with an extraordinarily talented cast, led by Marisha Wallace, Daniel Mays, George Ioannides, Celinde Schoenmaker and Cedric Neal, and this new cast is no different (somewhat literally as Ioannides and Schoenmaker reprise their roles as Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown).


Welcoming Timmika Ramsay and Owain Arthur in the roles of the high-spirited Miss Adelaide and Nathan Detroit, this new cast amply deserves its place in the history books. Although the choreography by Arlene Philips remains much the same, each cast member brings their own personality to the show, bringing new life to the material and making this production as authentic as it can be. This was again shown by the incomparable Jonathan Andrew Hume, taking over the role of Nicely-Nicely Johnson from Cedric Neal, who brought his own spin to the character and made his ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’ an extraordinary ode to joy.


The book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows brings to life these sensational characters, giving each contrasting strong personalities and laugh-out loud moments, making this show into a light-hearted out-of-body experience. The music and lyrics by Frank Loesser are no different as they simultaneously bring about moments of pity and lament, as well as comedy replete with stunning harmonies that do nothing but soothe the soul.


It would be impossible to pin-point a single transformative moment in the show’s score, as every song brings something different to the table, however Ioannides’ ‘Luck Be A Lady’ and Ramsay’s ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ are sure to bring smiles to the audience’s faces, as both actors reinvent the well-known classics into something fresh and exciting. Following the masterful orchestration Charlie Rosen, the score of Guys and Dolls has been given a welcome breath of fresh and reinvention that will surely set the tone for any future classic Broadway show revival.


Hytner and Christie have made Frank Loesser’s musical fable of Broadway a flawless masterpiece, an ode to joy which would bring smiles to anyone’s face, and most certainly deserves a permanent place in the history books. This current production of Guys and Dolls is set to conclude its run in late August of this year, and tickets can still be purchased from this link.


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AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Manuel Harlan

 

 

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