Aces High: Guys And Dolls Review

Guys And Dolls, Savoy Theatre ★★★★☆

By Stuart Black Last edited 28 months ago
Aces High: Guys And Dolls Review Guys And Dolls, Savoy Theatre 4
Photo by Paul Coltas

If you haven’t read Damon Runyon’s exquisite short stories of New Yoik life during Prohibition, what’s wrong with you? Pick one up now, take a trip to the wrong side of the tracks with the cartoon cast of hustlers and hoodlums, and then you’ll be ready for Guys And Dolls.

This ridiculously fun musical is based on two of Runyon's tales with frills from a few others thrown in the pot for good measure. Add to this indestructible foundation the sassy, brassy music of Frank Loesser and you have a 24-carat show, guaranteed to banish the January blues.

This latest London staging is at the Savoy Theatre and has the challenge of trying to match hugely successful past revivals featuring the likes of Bob Hoskins, Imelda Staunton and Ewan McGregor.

Sensibly, it doesn’t try to compete with such starry casting — going for lesser known actors who have charm in spades and can sing the heck out of the songs. For the record, it’s David Haigh and Sophie Thompson — who you might remember as randy newly-weds Bernard and Lydia in Four Weddings And A Funeral — here playing card-shark Nathan Detroit and his fourteen-year-fiancé Miss Adelaide. Both are great.

We also get a look at the next Harry Potter aka Jamie Parker, who’ll be playing the middle-aged wizard in the upcoming West End spin-off. He’s pretty terrific as Sky Masterson, the coolest cat in town who winds up making a bet with Detroit that he can’t seduce haughty missionary Sarah Brown, a less loveable part but played with verve by Siubhan Harrison.

The real secret weapon though is Cuban dancer Carlos Acosta, who’s helped to choreograph the show. On the Savoy’s small stage, he manages to create an intense whirlwind of energy, which the ensemble then feeds off and gives on to the audience. Two sequences crackle in particular: a dice game in the sewers which culminates in the killer tune Luck Be A Lady Tonight, and a trip to Havana which is imbued with hilarious Latin passion, Acosta clearly relishing sending up the stereotypes of his homeland.

The musical high-point is, as always in this show, the euphoric late number Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat. Gavin Spokes as Nicely-Nicely Johnson gives it everything and deservedly gets the biggest roar of the night from an audience that was pretty much enraptured from the first moment the sizzling neon set started flashing. In short, Guys And Dolls is a treat.

Guys And Dolls is on at the Savoy Theatre until 12 March. Tickets from £26.25. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 08 January 2016