Royal Albert Hall – 19 & 20 October
Reviewed by Claire Roderick
This spectacular semi-staged production of Guys and Dolls is just brilliant. The story of the seedier side of Broadway – full of small-time crooks and gamblers, showgirls and missionaries just never gets stale, and the producers have managed to get a dream cast for this oh-too-short run.
Jason Manford is a revelation as Nathan Detroit, desperately trying to keep one step ahead of the law and his creditors and find a place to hold his floating crap game aided by his sidekicks Benny (Joe Stilgoe) and Nicely Nicely Johnson (Clive Rowe). He enters into a ridiculous bet with Sky Masterson (Adrian Lester) that he can take mission leader Sarah Brown (Lara Pulver) to Havana. Nathan is also being pursued by his fiancée of 14 years, Miss Adelaide (Meow Meow) who just wants to know when they’re getting married.
James McKeon and his orchestra are centre stage and belt out Frank Loesser’s fabulous music as Stephen Mangan narrates the show. Director Stephen Mear keeps in all the favourite dance numbers with the Hot Box girls’ gloriously cheesy routines and the crapshooters amazing balletic moves.
Adrian Lester is a class act as sky – oozing charisma as he woos the luminous Lara Pulver. Clive Rowe is worth the ticket price alone as he reprises his role as Nicely and takes Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat to new heights. The star of the show is Meow Meow – sneezing and sniffling her way through the night in a hysterically off-kilter and slightly subversive version of lovelorn Miss Adelaide.
The story and songs are old favourites, but this fast-moving format breathes new life into a classic show – and when Lady Luck gets a cast like this together, just sit back and enjoy the magic of musical theatre.