Third in a row of our catching-up-on-shows-we’ve-missed. A sort of theatrical mopping round the surrounds if you please.
So, the seemingly indestructible Guys and Dolls. We didn’t get down to Chichester to see it and well, frankly, it was way too expensive at the Savoy but somehow Phil found a way to the Phoenix.
And if you’ve seen the poster or flyer (which boasts 6 Olivier Awards nominations, though strictly speaking it should be 3 nominations for the show as it now appears) for the Phoenix Theatre you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s the same cast who played the Savoy as their pictures are still on the publicity material. Three of the four leads were nominated, but they’ve all left the show, leaving the one who wasn’t, Siubhan Harrison (shame, we liked her), to carry on. Gavin Spokes, with an Olivier nod for his Nicely Nicely Johnson still appears, but we will return to him later.
And (like the publicity material) other economies appear to have been made. This production looks, whisper it, a little cheap with its largely single setting of period posters, though the ads do nod to events in the story rather cleverly (design by Peter McKintosh).
Based on short stories by Damon Runyon, Nathan Detroit (Richard Kind, Spin City, Mad About You) seeks a location to run his crap game whilst finding excuses not to marry his fiancée of 14 years, Miss Adelaide (Samantha Spiro) a performer at the rather saucily-named Hot Box nightclub. Nathan offers a $1,000 bet to Sky Masterton (Oliver Tompsett) that he can’t get Sarah Brown from the local Salvation Army mission to go on a dinner date with him to Havana. Is that how they got President Obama there last week?
Kind’s Nathan carries an appealing air of lugubriousness and he has a face that might have been created for Runyon. It also helps that he’s a real American. He grew on us quite quickly. So too Tompsett’s likeable Masterton. Adelaide gets the best comedy numbers, but perhaps our expectations for Spiro were too high, so she could only be a mild disappointment. Perhaps we still haven’t forgiven her for appearing in Tracey Ullman’s recent TV show.
Of course Frank Loesser‘s songs are fantastic, one after another of tuneful, memorable melodies with smart lyrics, though Billy Boyle, as Sarah’s grandfather and fellow mission worker, gets saddled with the one number you’re likely to have forgotten. What was it again?
The trouble is, that despite the fantastic catalogue of tunes, the humour in Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows‘ book, some busy – if slightly cramped – choreography from Andrew Wright and Carlos Acosta (no less) and wonderful sound design that ensured you could hear all the lyrics (apart from those delivered by one of the secondary characters who shall remain nameless), much of the humour never really lands and Gordon Greenberg‘s production doesn’t really take off until near the end.
The sudden upturn came in the glorious and bulletproof “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat”, superbly led by Spokes’ Nicely Nicely which soars above and beyond anything currently in the West End. Two reprises weren’t enough, frankly it could have gone on all night.
A special shout out too for Lucie-Mae Sumner in the ensemble, what we prefer to call the chorus, standing out as one of the Hot Box girls and a slightly stooped mission hall member, working the role for all it was worth. Splendid.
We saw this only a few performances into the relocated run, but since no concessions in seat pricing have been made (It’s even more expensive that at the Savoy; £71.50 best stalls/£101.50 premium seating plus booking fees) we will make no concessions either.