The 2016 West End season got off to a rollicking start this week with Wednesday’s opening of Guys and Dolls, the latest Chichester Festival transfer to the Savoy Theatre, which follows fast on the heels of the last CFT transfer of another Broadway musical revival, Gypsy. It was a surprisingly star-studded, red carpet affair for the first week in January – usually it takes until at least the second week in January to feel like everyone’s back in town.
And, while many of the newspaper critics had already seen and raved about Gordon Greenberg‘s production when it was first staged in Chichester in August 2014, that doesn’t seem to have dampened their enthusiasm for the show the second time around – with solid four-star plaudits pretty much across the board.
Once again, there’s particularly high praise for Jamie Parker‘s performance as slick gambler Sky Masterson – and anticipation for his switch back to plays later this year, when he takes on the role of the adult Harry Potter in JK Rowling two-parter The Cursed Child – as well as for Sophie Thompson, also reprising her Chichester performance fiancee-in-waiting Miss Adelaide. In the West End, and on the show’s extensive tour, the other leads of Nathan Detroit and Sarah Brown, are now played by David Haig and Siubhan Harrison, who’ve taken over from Peter Polycarpou and Clare Foster.
There are also warm plaudits for Gavin Spokes‘ Nicely-Nicely Johnson and his rendition of Guys and Dolls‘ notoriously crowd-pleasing company number, “Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat” – as evidenced by the number of reviews that choose that image as their lead photo.
Is it all enough to dispel memories of Richard Eyre‘s definitive National Theatre production of Guys and Dolls? That’s the subject of my other blog today.
In the meantime, I’ve rounded up the other main reviews, first night photos and other features from Wednesday’s opening below…
TELEGRAPH – ★★★★
Dominic Cavendish: This is a resplendent revival … The new year may have started in a welter of lousy weather, but the one undimmed musical masterpiece bequeathed to us by Broadway giant Frank Loesser is lighting up the West End like a heaven-sent shaft of summer sun…
EVENING STANDARD – ★★★★
Henry Hitchings: Gordon Greenberg’s revival looks gorgeous, sounds timeless (if a little too brassy) and is alert to every opportunity for humour. It may not eclipse memories of Richard Eyre’s mighty Eighties production, but it’s energetic and at times genuinely magical…
EXPRESS – ★★★★
Neil Norman: A tip of the fedora to Gavin Spokes and Ian Hughes whose double act as low lifes Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet provides the show’s most consistent pleasure…
INDEPENDENT – ★★★★
Paul Taylor: Without ever lapsing into sentimentality, Guys and Dolls manages to be knowing and yet wholly and fundamentally, uncynical. It’s a sort of urban pastoral…
GUARDIAN – ★★★★
Michael Billington: Watching Gordon Greenberg’s expert revival, I was reminded yet again that this isthe wittiest of American musicals… A classic musical has been delivered with grace and elan…
TIMES – ★★★★
Ann Treneman: All of the main characters are better than good. David Haig, as Detroit, is an amiable shambles. Siubhan Harrison tugs at the heart as the Salvationist and Jamie Parker is exceptional as Sky: sexy, Sinatra-like, a crooner with twinkle-toes…
THE STAGE – ★★★★
Mark Shenton: Chichester’s production of Broadway’s greatest valentine to its own hallowed streets proves itself a masterpiece once again… As marshalled by director Gordon Greenberg, the show looks, sounds and dances up a storm…
ARTS DESK – ★★★★
Matt Wolf: Gordon Greenberg’s staging in an instant brings necessary brio and dash to the West End, supplanting the psychologically anguished “musical fable” that was Gypsy at this same playhouse for most of last year…
TIME OUT – ★★★★
Andzrej Lukowski: Its big strength is some truly excellent casting, which has got starrier with the recent revelation that Jamie Parker is to play the eponymous lead in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child…
WEST END FRAME – ★★★★
Andrew Tomlins: The highlight of the evening is the showstopping number ‘Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat’. Receiving three rounds of extended applause, Gavin Spokes led the song superbly as Nicely Nicely Johnson opposite the fabulous Lorna Gayle as General Cartwright…
MY THEATRE MATES – ★★★★
Johnny Fox: Jamie Parker is beyond excellent, refining Sky Masterson with a crisp intelligence and occasional glimpses of hesitant motive and the inner workings of a genuinely three dimensional character…
Lauren Mooney: It might be a little by numbers in some places, but this is a hugely fun and competent staging of a classic… See it for Thompson and Parker, see it for the big songs, see it because it’s January and you need a bit of cheering up – it really is masses of fun…
News & features
How lady luck smiled on the seedy side of America
Matt Trueman: There’s no beating Kenneth Tynan’s pithy encapsulation of Guys and Dolls: “The Beggar’s Opera of Broadway.” It was, in his estimation, “the second best American play” ever written, behind Death of a Salesman. He’s not far off…
Sophie Thompson blames “idiotic” Government for marginalising arts in schools
Matthew Hemley: Olivier award-winning actor Sophie Thompson has criticised the “off-the-scale idiotic” government for marginalising the arts in schools. The performer, currently starring in Guys and Dolls…
First night photos
Rebecca Davison: The 55-year-old Love Actually actress Emma Thompson walked down the red carpet with her 16-year-old daughter, Greenpeace activist, Gaia Romilly Wise, whose father is Emma’s husband Greg Wise. Emma…
Guys & Dolls production history – including that NT production
Dom O’Hanlon: It’s that time of the year again when across every sector lists begin to appear of the ‘top’ items of the year, as well as a look ahead to what we can expect the ‘best’ to be in the…
First night report
Kate Stanbury: What? The classic Frank Loesser hit? One of the greatest musicals of all time? Okay, I’ll admit, I hadn’t seen it until now either. This is the musical tale of a New York conman, his…