Guys and Dolls is a classic, perhaps THE classic of Broadway musicals. It's got the lot - wonderful songs, very funny script and an engaging story set in a 1940s New York of lowlife gamblers and high rolling evangelicals - a delicious mixture.
The songs by Frank Loesser perfectly recreate the world of Damon Runyon, the chronicler of a comic yet seamy side of New York with its hustlers, hookers and gamblers. So how did the Arts Theatre's in-house production fare? Was it worth the gamble? Was luck a lady tonight? The answer is a resounding and unequivocal 'yes'.
I have seen about a dozen productions of this great show in my lifetime and this was without doubt the best. The production directed by Nick Bagnall has everything you could want from this masterpiece of musical theatre.
The casting is spot on. I have never seen a better Nathan Detroit - the lovable rogue, organiser of illegal crap games who spends his life fixing hideouts for mobster gamblers. Fergal McElherron's Nathan was the perfect foil for Jenni Maitland's left-in-the-lurch fiancee Miss Adelaide. There was real electricity between them and you will never hear a better rendition of Adelaide's great song 'A person can develop a cold'.
Wonderful too were Harry Hepple as Sky Masterson, the biggest gambler of them all who is tricked into a sucker bet that he can't take Sarah Brown to Havana. Miss Brown, is a straight laced missionary doll who has never been further than Brooklyn. Anna Lowe brought a strength and vulnerability to her role as Miss Sarah; both were in great voice for their songs together - including a dreamily beautiful, 'I've never been in love before'.
There was an electrifying performance from Chris Howell as Nathan's lookout, Nicely-Nicely Johnson. His rendition of 'Sit down you're rocking the boat' threatened to lift the roof of the Arts Theatre right off. It is hard to find any fault in this production. The Arts has got together a terrific ensemble who act, sing and dance with gusto and self belief. The routines (such as 'Luck be a lady' and the steamy 'Take back your mink') are performed with huge energy and discipline. So hats off to the Arts for bringing a production of Frank Loesser's great musical.
It is a joy from beginning to end. Was it a gamble? No, the Arts Theatre has produced a classic. Will you love it? That's a one-way bet.