Guys and Dolls

From the 27th April to the 7th May, York’s Theatre Royal is playing host to the likes of Nathan Detroit, Sky (Obadiah) Masterson and Adelaide in Paul Laidlaw’s new production of Guys and Dolls. The musical has enjoyed continued success on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean since its debut.

The hit musical centres around the ongoing and flu-inducing engagement between Nathan Detroit and Adelaide, the search for a venue for an illegal crap game, and a bet between Detroit and Masterson. Meanwhile, the upstanding Mission leader Sarah Brown finds herself mixed up in the whole shebang. Well-known and loved songs include ‘Luck Be A Lady Tonight’ , ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat’ and of course, ‘Guys and Dolls’.

The musical first opened on 24th November 1950 on Broadway and played for 1,200 performances. Two and a half years later it found its way to the London Coliseum and ran for 555 nights. This gem of American musical theatre has been made into a film starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando. Surprisingly, considering the show’s success, the text was constructed around the set of songs, which had originally been written as part of a different, unsuccessful show.

The New York depicted in Guys and Dolls is Damon Runyon’s own very personalised and highly stylised view; perhaps the most notable features of this portrayal of the city are the idiosyncratic speech-patterns and nasal tones. These are exploited in the musical’s lyrical prose and the songs themselves, and the racy lifestyle of these inhabitants.

Laidlaw’s company are enjoying a well-earned successful run. The musical numbers are performed with a polished slickness and light-hearted feel that are perfectly in tune with the musical’s enjoyable and somewhat comic nature. Particular mention must be given to Toni Feetenby as Adelaide, and John Haigh as Sky Masterson whose voices and acting are notably strong.

The odd combination of broad Yorkshire accents, from those that haven’t quite mastered the idiosyncrasies of the city’s speech-patterns, and the Brooklyn intonation of those who have, do cause the musical to jolt along in places. The audience’s suspension of disbelief is certainly tested. Despite the regional embellishments, however, the company’s clear enjoyment in performing the show inevitably rubs off on the audience.

One of the highlights of the show is the orchestra; a combination of a jazz ensemble and a big band, which sails through the musical numbers. It also keeps up the pace of the musical during the many scene changes, which span from a street in downtown New York to an evening setting in Havana.