The 2014 Chichester Festival production of Frank Loesser’s classic musical arrives at the Savoy Theatre to maintain the Sussex venue’s remarkable record of originating shows that then find success in the West End. Director Gordon Greenberg’s production replaces another Chichester triumph, Gypsy, at the Savoy — two giants of the genre that bookended the 1950s.
Siubhan Harrison as Sarah Brown and Jamie Parker as Sky Masterson
Both shows take as their subjects those on the periphery of greatness: Mamma Rose and her kids hoofing around the vaudeville circuit in Gypsy, while in Guys and Dolls, it’s hustlers and gamblers living just on the wrong side of the law, a dice throw from the bright lights of Times Square — the book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows took the short stories of Damon Runyon as its source.
Here, Greenberg has cast four leads that do full justice to this irresistible, feel-good show. They deliver the witty one-liners with aplomb and sing up a storm, supported by a fine ensemble.
Jamie Parker (who will be back on stage later this year as the eponymous wizard in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) is a swaggering Sky Masterson, but has charm in spades to woo straight-laced but feisty Sally Army officer Sarah Brown (Siubhan Harrison). David Haig is suitably world-weary as wheeler-dealer Nathan Detroit, and there’s a show-stealing and heart-warming turn from Sophie Thompson as his fiancée, Miss Adelaide — her second-act opener Take Back Your Mink is a gloriously camp classic.
The show’s big numbers Luck Be a Lady and Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat are impeccably staged thanks to choreographers Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright, and the Havana sequence is a masterclass in sustained vitality.
It takes a little while to get going, but it’s well worth the wait because this production of an American classic is delivered with style and pizzazz.