Wednesday, December 30, 2015

GUYS AND DOLLS - Following GYPSY from Chichester to London...

You can almost hear the owners of the Savoy Theatre when they realised that Imelda Staunton in GYPSY was such a massive success, calling up the Chichester Festival Theatre and saying "Um.. you don't have any more like that do you?"  Luckily for them they did, namely their 2014 revival of GUYS AND DOLLS - which is now playing the Savoy until next March.

There might still be someone in Buttkick, Idaho that does not know that the 1982 National Theatre production directed by Richard Eyre was the production that turned me into a huge theatre fan but it's true.  That production captured me and made me it's own, and while I have seen a few revivals since that have seemed almost cowed by the status of both the musical itself and the NT production, the good news is that I enjoyed Gordon Greenberg's Chichester production enough to want to see it again in it's London transfer.

Yes there are still times that I wonder how such an obvious laughline can be overlooked or mis-handled, yes I can wonder why the orchestrations are sometimes seeming to rush through the songs almost as if embarrassed at the score's riches and yes, sometimes I wonder why the performers sometimes attack the roles like a rugby prop-forward when if they could just relax into it the laughs will come, they just need to trust the material more.

In the transfer to London a key cast change has given the production a new lease of life, namely David Haig as Nathan Detroit.  He has invigorated it and given the scenes involving Nathan and Adelaide a new weight where as in Chichester the show was seemingly all about Jamie Parker's Sky Masterson.

Haig gives his man-nearing-the-end-of-his-tether routine a new shake of the dice and presents us with a Nathan that we can care for and he has a perfect foil in Sophie Thompson's Miss Adelaide. Although still not showing the vulnerable heart of the character, Sophie's performance prompted a huge ovation again at the curtain call which was lovely to witness!

Jamie Parker is still ruling the roost as Sky Masterson and he is now partnered by Siubhan Harrison who certainly captures the steel in Sister Sarah but - like Clare Foster in Chichester - doesn't quite show the girl beneath the Missionary uniform.

The supporting cast all work well with Neil McCaul excelling as a Gorbals Arvide Abernathy and Gavin Spokes certainly seizes his big moment in "Sit Down You're Rocking The Boat" which now also pops up at the curtain call for a tambourine-friendly encore.

A major component of the show is Peter McKintosh's bright and colourful set of shards of Times Square billboards and Tim Mitchell's lighting design.  I must admit that I again found Carlos Acosta's much-vaunted choreography to be fairly uninspiring and lacking focus.

Coming away from the show I felt very proud that I had the good fortune to start my real theatre-going life with such a bona fide Broadway classic.  33 years on, it is a measure of Richard Eyre's production that while watching this revival, I can still half-close my eyes and see Ian Charleson, Julie Covington, Bob Hoskins, Julia McKenzie, David Healy, John Normington, Bill Paterson, Jim Carter, Harry Towb, Belinda Sinclair, Rachel Izen and that new doll to the London stage, Imelda Staunton.

However, even without those ghosts in the memory, you will have a great time at the Savoy...

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