Guys and Dolls, Manchester Palace Theatre – Review

Adam Lowe

I was lucky enough to check out Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of the classic Guys and Dolls last month. The show is now touring the UK, with dates at the West End until March, followed by dates in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, Bristol and Woking.

I’m one of those kids who – despite being very theatrical – didn’t actually watch many musicals. I knew Oliver! word for word (and played a workhouse kid and one of Fagin’s gang in my school production), I played God in Jonah and the Whale, and I’d watched The Sound of Music and hated it, but I didn’t even watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show until I was about 21.

Sadly, Guys and Dolls was one of those musicals I’d managed to miss for 30 years of my life. But, thankfully, I can now hold my head up high and say I’ve seen it – and I loved it. Though ‘Luck be a Lady Tonight’ was the only song I knew, every one of them had me wanting to sing along.

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Fellow Yorkshire-man Jamie Parker stars as a very charismatic (and handsome) Sky Masterson, alongside Siubhan Harrison as Sarah Brown, David Haig as Nathan Detroit and Sophie Thompson as Miss Adelaide in this vibrant production of the classic musical.

Olivier Award-winners Haig and Thompson are reunited after appearing together in Four Weddings and a Funeral years ago, and their onstage chemistry is palpable. They steal the show, and Thompson is my MVP – her fragility, enthusiasm and naivety make for a very endearing character, but it’s the actor’s comedic timing that wins her this accolade. David Haig matches her energy perfectly, so that they easily convince as a pair, and their performance overshadows that of Parker and Harrison.

That’s not to say that Parker and Harrison aren’t great, of course, although the nature of the script means Parker’s character gets to shine far more than Harrison’s. Parker sparkles and charms throughout the show, glamouring us with his cheeky confidence. Harrison does the best she can with the script, giving determination and passion to the character, although it’s true neither Sarah Brown nor Miss Adelaide are going to win any awards for best written female character.

The direction is sharp, with New Yorker Gordon Greenberg at the helm, and the muscular choreography from Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright lends a Cuban authenticity that highlights the Prohibition-era decadence of the show. The set comprises a swirling array of neon brand name signs, which works perfectly to capture the rise of post-war consumerism, and proves a versatile backdrop for each scene.

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The show ran at Manchester Palace Theatre for two weeks before beginning its UK tour, as part of ATG Tickets’ commitment that Manchester Gets It First. The Manchester Gets It First scheme sees participating productions launch first in Manchester, before touring the rest of the UK.

You can check out tour dates and buy tickets for Guys and Dolls at ATG Tickets.