Bristol Hippodrome


Guys and Dolls - July 2016

Bet it plays to full house(s)

Glory hallelujah I didn't realise Guys & Dolls had a bible bashing theme but the story set in a seedy part of New York is all about saints and sinners.

The cast were fantastic, the dancers energetic, the songs foot-tapping, the set simple and everyone in the audience absolutely loved it with two exceptions – me and mine.

Gosh its dated and from a modern woman’s perspective cringingly awful.

Poor old nightclub singer Adelaide has been engaged for 14-years to a bum and to cover her shame of not getting this worthless piece of manhood to the altar has written copious fictional letters to her mother of wedded bliss and half a dozen fantasy children.

Poor prim and proper Sarah Brown wears her Salvation Army-style bonnet with aplomb and armed with bible quotes and her tambourine is determined to save the souls of those wicked gamblers whose lives revolve around shooting dice.

The language used in this show is interesting as it vacillates between articulate formal speech and street slang.

The word on the street for shooting dice is ‘shooting craps’ and ‘crap’ is about the right word for this 1950s throwback to a time where marriage was the best option for gals and real men fought against everything matrimonial which was seen as being ‘caught’ or ‘landed’ by the opposite sex – so sad.

Okay my true feminist colours are shining through and maybe clouding my judgement so back to the musical as performed at the Bristol Hippodrome this week.

What did I like?

The leading performers including Richard Fleeshman (Coronation Street, Ghost the Musical, Call the Midwife) as Sky Masterson, Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2, Emmerdale, The Colbys) as Nathan Detroit, Louise Dearman (Wicked, Evita) as Adelaide and Anna O’Byrne (Love Never Dies) as Sarah Brown were amazing and deserved a better review that this…not their fault as they didn’t write the rubbish script nearly 70 years ago.

Their stage presence and comic delivery was perfect and okay love conquers all with its Mills & Boon ending.

The press blurb says: ‘Nathan Detroit is desperate: he needs money for an illegal dice game, and he needs it fast. Not to mention a 14-year engagement with nightclub singer Miss Adelaide, whose patience is finally running out. Enter notorious gambler Sky Masterson, a guy who can never turn down a bet, and straight-laced missionary Sarah Brown, a doll with a heart of ice. Nathan’s wager is that Sky has to romance Sarah by taking her to Havana for dinner and in return he’ll provide a dozen ‘sinners’ for Sarah’s mission. Surely this is one bet Nathan absolutely can't lose?’

I am so pleased I didn’t live in the US post World War 2 but the UK was bad enough. 

The songs are great and include My Time of Day, Luck Be A Lady and the show-stopping Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat.

Best bits? The choreography by Cuban dancer and former Royal Ballet star Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright, the lighting by Tim Mitchell and set design by Peter McKintosh.

And I learned the best way to study the bible is have lots of hotel stays in places that the evangelical Christian association called Gideons have left a copy by the bedside.

Loved the illegal gambling den when the shaft of lights shadowed the action where Cameron Johnson (Big Jule) who stands 6ft 7in tall towered over his chequered-suited opponents,

There were parallels in part with that other godly show Sweet Charity with Shirley MacLaine and the person sitting next to me in the stalls (who applauded the production) said I would have appreciated Guys & Dolls more than I seen the1955 film starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra.

Sorry if my inner devil got into the details of this review but my perspective may have been clouded by having a little local difficulty in the stalls.

The couple to our right arrived late and we all had to stand for them to squeeze by and then apart from playing on their mobile phone they rattled the couple sat to our left with the noise emulating from a large bag of toffees and we were caught in the crossfire of some subdued shouting.

But I am sure it will play to full houses at Bristol because the lovely people at Noah's Ark at Wraxall also went on Tuesday night and they posted a glowing accolade on Twitter.

Carol Deacon