Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester – until 3 February 2018
The Royal Exchange has pulled a Christmas cracker of a show this festive season with their lively, glamorous and celebratory interpretation of Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls. With Michael Buffong at the helm, the action is set in the heart of the Harlem Renaissance, encapsulating the vigour of Black America at this time – this is feel good, toe-tappingly fabulous theatre from beginning to end.
The action centres around the gambling world – where a roll of the dice can settle even the most awkward of arguments. With every new day comes a new hustle – but will their luck stick when they try to gamble with love?
With arguably the most beautiful cast that I have seen on stage in some time, vibrant musical numbers and slick scene changes – Talawa Theatre Co’s Guys and Dolls is charming, witty and packed with sentiment. Capturing the swing and soul of Harlem in the late 1930’s and the sensual, eclectic vibe of Havana – Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy’s choreography is a delight. With a roll of the dice, ‘Luck Be A Lady’ is a swinging, clicking sensation and a gospel style ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat’ exudes energy and fun, led with vigour by Ako Mitchell, as a towering Nicely-Nicely Johnson.
In a suit as blue as his name, Ashley Zhangazha is hugely charismatic as the infamous Sky Masterson – exuding boyish charm, holding the audiences gaze from the very start. Abiona Omonua shows versatility in her voice and gives a wonderfully nuanced performance as Salvation Army Sergeant Sarah Brown – demonstrating control in her mission to convert the gambling sinners of Harlem while also revealing her adventurous side in Havana.
Ray Fearon as Nathan Detroit and Lucy Vandi as cabaret singer Miss Adelaide, who has been waiting 14 years for a marriage proposal – share some poignant comic moments. Vandi’s ‘A Person Could Develop a Cold’ is a highlight – revealing the humour behind the tragic realisation of her situation in love.
This Guys and Dolls is the perfect feel-good Christmas production. Playing out in-the-round on the Royal Exchange’s iconic stage, you’ll be left with a spring in your step and a smile on your face long after leaving the theatre. This is a performance that should not be missed.