Broadway, the Bronx and the Bowery probably never were populated with the gallery of loveable rogues and chancers that we encounter in the stories of Damon Runyan.
But his fairy tale New York lives on in Guys and Dolls, the Frank Loesser show from 1950 that gained immense credibility when it later became the first musical to be performed by the National Theatre in London. There is also a famous film of 1955, starring Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons.
It is certainly a vivid, pacy show in which the dialogue and music seem to fit more seamlessly than almost any musical I can think of. David Fletcher’s production for the HAOS keeps up the momentum. The only scene that is in danger of flagging is the underground crap shoot (i.e. a dice rolling game) in Act Two. But this is done atmospherically and culminates in a powerful rendition of one of the show’s best known songs, Luck Be A Lady.
The plot revolves around the tribulations of the hustler Nathan Detroit and his desperate attempts to find a venue for his latest crap game. He us under pressure from local gamblers and from visiting Chicago hood Big Jule while being pestered for a marriage date by his long –term fiancé, the night club chanteuse Miss Adelaide. Then the high rolling gambler Sky Masterson hits town and begins a complex but ultimately redemptive interaction with the local Salvation Army Mission and its earnest preacher Sarah Brown.
Nathan is played by Stuart Marshall, whose New York accent retains traces of old Yorkshire, but he is a skilled comedy actor, mingling permanent exasperation with blind optimism. Michele Stevenson as Miss Adelaide does a good routine as a dumb broad who knows what she wants and the night club routines are well choreographed by Joanne Perkins.
The show revolves around the louche gambler Sky Masterson, and Richard Brook has all the charisma required for the role. He also has a relaxed, natural signing style that seems to evoke the era of Sinatra and certainly suits the face mic technology that is now standard in musical shows. His problematic love interest, the Salvationist Sarah, is played by Sonya Morris who retains the intense integrity of her character through the twists and turns of the plot.
The best-known of the secondary characters is Nicely-Nicely Johnson played with wiry credibility by Dan Sean Henry who gives a bravura performance of Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat. That is a comedy musical highlight that is matched perhaps by the romance of Sky and Sarah’s touching duet I’ve Never Been In Love Before.
We also have streetwise performances from the likes of Brandon Swain as Benny Southstreet and Andrew Featherstone as Harry the Horse with Michael Hellawell as a sinister Big Jule.
Guys and Dolls runs at the LBT until Saturday.