GUYS AND DOLLS
Chichester Festival Theatre
What to do with Guys and Dolls ? Gritty or glitzy ? Back to Runyon's Broadway ?
Chichester have flown in the legendary Gordon Greenberg, mender of broken musicals, here directing his first Guys and Dolls.
He's gone for a simple but striking design [Peter McKintosh] and a Fifties film noir feel, established with sax, smoke and spotlight in the opening seconds.
The staging is unfussy: a stunning sunburst of broken Broadway billboards – liquor and tobacco, PanAm and peanuts, Wrigley's and Levi's, plus, less familiar in Sussex, Hire's Root Beer. And then a simple truck for the Save A Soul Mission, a news-stand and a shoe-shine for the mean streets of the devil's own city. The manhole covers become tables, Havana's palms grow up from the black shiny sidewalks.
A fine quartet of principals: Chichester favourite Peter Polycarpou an excellent Nathan Detroit, with Sophie Thompson as his Miss Adelaide.
Clare Foster gives a wonderful Sarah, melting marvellously under the influence of dulce de leche; Jamie Parker is Sky, rat-packing his way through the numbers and bringing his distinctive charisma and charm to the “sinner heavy with sin”.
Among the energetic company, a lovely vaudeville duo from Ian Hughes as Benny, and Harry Morrison [far too slim] as Nicely Nicely, and an imposing General from Melanie La Barrie. The other big name here is Carlos Acosta,[working on the choreography with Andrew Wright] whose hand is felt in the lifts and athleticism of the crap game and the Cuban bar.
A stylish, lively production. But not, perhaps, as definitive, or breath-taking, or life-enhancing as the very best of Chichester's tributes to the American musical theatre.