Guys & Dolls at Bridge Theatre
Guys & Dolls at The Bridge Theatre seems to be the show that all of theatre land is talking about at the moment so I went along to find out what was so special about it!
The show itself is a classic Broadway musical which premiered in 1950. We meet Nathan Detroit, who runs a floating crap game and Adelaide, a singer at the Hot Box. They have been engaged for 14 years but Nathan has been evading the big ‘I do.’ In the course of running his crap game Nathan comes across Sky Masterson and to raise the funds for him to put on his next game, he bets Sky that he cannot get Sarah Brown, a mission girl, to accompany him on his trip to Havana. Of course this results in Sky and Sarah ultimately falling for each other and Sky having to do what he can to win Sarah back.
Whilst this is a musical that most of the audience would have seen before, this version breathes fresh life into this classic in so many ways. The staging is incredibly innovative with the stage moving around the audience, forgoing the need for scene changes as when one scene or number on part of the stage finishes the next scene is beginning elsewhere in the auditorium. The crew dart around, deftly moving items on and off the stage and the front of house staff ensure that the audience are where they need to be at all times. Whilst the set itself is simplistic the huge neon lights above the playing space are all this show needs to set the location.
It is not just the staging of the show that feels fresh however. The cast bring a huge amount of life to the show and songs that I may skip on a typical cast recording had me belly laughing in this production (Marry The Man Today I’m talking about you!). Daniel Mays and Marisha Wallace play Nathan and Miss Adelaide and they were a delight on stage together. Wallace as Miss Adelaide made me wish that the Hot Box was a real club I could attend every night just to see her perform. She brought the house down, not only with her show stealing numbers at the Hot Box such as A Bushel and a Peck and Take Back Your Mink but Adelaide’s Lament showed off not only her incredible powerhouse voice but also her impeccable comic timing.
Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown were played by Andrew Richardson and Celinde Schoenmaker. Often the role of Sarah Brown can be seen as uptight and, if we are honest, a little bit dull, but Schoenmaker injected real likeability and warmth into the character. Richardson ensured that Sky was a loveable rouge that you couldn’t help but root for, even when you knew that their relationship was forming off the back of a bet. Their duets were stunning, with Richardson’s rich baritone voice and Schoenmaker’s crystal clear legit soprano voice giving me shivers.
I would also be remiss not to mention Credric Neal as Nicely-Nicely Johnson who almost blew the roof off the theatre with the audiences reaction to Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat and Mark Oxtoby as the hapless sidekick, Benny Southstreet. Together they injected bundles of humour into the show.
The choreography by Arlene Philips with James Cousins was also a feast for the eyes. The Hot Box routines were steamier than I have seen before but this sat perfectly with the energy of the show. The dance at Havana encompassed the party feeling perfectly and Luck Be A Lady was a feat of athleticism at times. The choreography ranged hugely in style which was perfect for Guys & Dolls and ensured that every number was memorable in their own right.
The technical side of the show was flawless. The lighting design by Paule Constanble not only help guide the audiences attention to where their gaze should be next but helped set the scenes, from a bright Havana though to a craps game underground. The sound design by Paul Arditti must also be commended, I found that where ever I stood in the pit, from right up close to the stage to round the edges I could hear the cast and the band balanced perfectly.
The Bridge’s production of Guys & Dolls is a masterclass in how to make an impact on the theatre in 2023, even with a show written over 70 years ago. Innovative staging, cast that were born to play the roles and choreography that is fresh and exciting, there is little more you could ask for from this production…save for a longer run!!
Guys & Dolls is on at the Bridge Theatre until 2nd September. You can find out more and book on the Bridge Theatres Website.
A few tips if you want to promenade:
- You have to hand your bag in for the duration of the show but the queue to get it back afterwards is long (although it moved quickly). Either take a very small cross body bag so you don’t need to check anything or stay until the end of the post show party and grab a drink at the bar if you aren’t in a hurry.
- Arrive early to soak up the atmosphere. There are hats to buy along with pretzels, coke and beer once inside the auditorium. You can also chat with the ‘street sellers.’
- I would recommend standing on either side of the auditorium rather than at either end – ie not under the band or opposite them. No where is a bad view but on the side you get a bigger picture of the routines.
- If you don’t want to get wet don’t stand too close to the stage near the end of Act 1!
- If you need to leave during the interval make it quick – there is an interval show you don’t want to miss.
- During the interval a few tables and chairs get put out – get yourself a seat there and you’ll find yourself at the Hot Box in Act 2…oh and you can order a cocktail right there.
- The show is a long show so it is a while to be stood up…comfy shoes is a must.