Guys and Dolls
Royal Albert Hall
19 and 20 October 2018
Damon Runyan’s short stories inspired what has become an iconic and much-loved Broadway musical and movie – Guys and Dolls. Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, this premiered on Broadway in 1950. Sinatra and Brando took the male leads in the 1955 movie with Vivian Blane and Jean Simmons as their dolls.
This is the first time it has had a staging at the Royal Albert Hall or rather a semi-staging. Those who know the work will be aware that it is a partly abbreviated version. Stephen Mangan’s narrator neatly fast-tracks us over the gaps in the action. It should not work. But it does. And it is wonderful.
The book would not pass the Bechdel Test today. The woman mainly talk about men but what huge female roles these are. Meow Meow as Adelaide is a hoot and has amazing comic timing as well as a real gift for sprechgesang. Lara Pulver as Sarah Brown matches Meow Meow and their duet Marry The Man Today, is wildly funny.
I enjoyed Adrian Lester’s Sky Masterson. He had a physical presence that seemed released in a way that I have never previously seen. Jason Manford’s multi-layered Nathan Detroit was a rich performance. His comic timing is genius.
The rest of the company was excellent and Sharon D Clarke’s lustful Salvation Army Officer is a delight.
The choreography was mainly re-imagined for this staging and Stephen Mear raised the house with his acrobatic inventions for a gifted group of male dancers in Luck Be A Lady Tonight.
The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, firmly planted centre stage, was wild, energetic and thrilling.
This is a marvellous event full of wit, virtuoso singing and dancing and a deep love for one of the best American musicals of the 1950s.
Julia Pascal © 2018.