Monday, 1 June 2009

Guys And Dolls – Nederlander Theatre, New York

Guys and Dolls
Based on a story by Damon Runyon
Music & Lyrics: Frank Loesser
Book: Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows
Director: Des McNuff
Choreographer: Sergio Trujillo
Reviewer: John Roberts

There is still something very magical about entering a theatre that you have never been in before, you are placed in unfamiliar surroundings and your senses go on overload absorbing the atmosphere of the building and the people who temporarily inhabit that space. My recent trip to the Nederlander Theatre sent shivers down my spine for several reasons the first being that Guys & Dolls has a special place in my heart being one of the first theatrical performances I appeared in, I also love theatres that have a feeling of Intimacy, and that is just what you get here!

There have been many productions of Guys and Doll’s over the years both on Broadway and in the UK but there is something magical in this production that takes the show to new heights and I lay all my bets down that this is the best of them yet!

Based on Damon Runyon’s short stories set during the prohibition years, the musical follows the life of Nathan Detroit (Oliver Platt) fixer of New York’s infamous crap games and his relationship with his long serving Fiancée and Hot Box Girl Adelaide (Lauren Graham) along the way Detroit lays down a bet with High Flying Sky Masterson (Craig Bierko) that he can’t take Sergeant Sarah Brown (Kate Jennings Grant) of the Salvation Army on a date what pursues is one of the most satisfying stories in Musical Theatre.

At the directing helm of this superb revival is Des McNuff, whose magical touch helped him and his production of Jersey Boys sweep away with many of the awards at the Tony’s and Olivier awards, critical to his staging is the simplicity in getting the story across, there are no huge fancy sets that distract from the action, there is attention to even the smallest bit of detail when the whole company are performing and it is with this attention, that puts Guys & Dolls head and shoulders above most of the shows on Broadway.

McNuff is helped in his quest for musical perfection by the fantastic Choreography by Sergio Trujillo, the Runyon Land sequence at the top of the show and the crap shooters ballet are just two of the dancing highlights of his energetic and jaw droppingly perfected routines.

Robert Brill also brings an inventive use of video to this production by using a video wall as the ever changing backdrop to all the locations which are cleverly designed by Dustin O’Neill to provide seamless changes in location without having to wait for cumbersome set changes which many shows rely. Paul Tazewell also provides welcome 30’s glamour to his costume designs throughout the production.

But the strength of any production always lies in its weakest cast member and it is not often a reviewer can leave the theatre with a smile on their face and say that every single member of the ensemble put one hundred percent into everything they did, but this is one such cast!

Oliver Platt provides a suitably stuffy and on edge Nathan Detroit which is in complete contrast to Lauren Grahams more assured portrayal of Adelaide, one if I am honest took a little getting used to but brought a freshness to the role that I had never encountered before, but it is the pairing of Craig Bierko as Sky and Kate Jennings Grant as Sarah Brown that steals the on stage chemistry award, Bierko oozes a charm and sophistication in his portrayal of Sky that if given the chance every woman in the audience would want a slice of that man. Jennings Grant is joyously sweet and really comes into her own during her fantastic rendition of ‘If I Were A Bell.’

Other notable performances are given by Jim Ortlieb as Arvide Abernathy and his rendition of ‘More I Cannot Wish You’ managed to bring a tear to my eye, in a way that the song has never been able to in the past, but the show stealer of the century award must be handed to Tituss Burgess as not only does he rock the boat in his Gospel flavoured rendition of ‘Sit Down’ but he has the whole theatre rocking along as well.

If ever there was a time to revive a classic of the genre then it is these tough recession times is just perfect, this show has everything you could hope for in a production, laughter, catchy songs, energetic choreography (something Mary Poppins just around the block could learn a lesson from.) This is what Musical theatre should be all about pure unadulterated family fun, and I would without a doubt put a bet down that you would be hard pushed to find a better show on broadway at the moment!

for more info on Guys & Dolls - Click Here
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