Lucia Revel-Chion

It is an unfortunate fact about writing theatre reviews that no one enjoys reading the ones that are positive – besides the people involved in the production themselves. I’ve had several people confirm this about my own reviews on multiple occasions. As such, I’m sorry to those of you that enjoy reading those biting reviews, but I hope that the cast and production team of Guys and Dolls will enjoy reading this at the very least, because 2020’s Lent Term Musical is simply perfect.

The story is a simple romantic comedy – charming but no-good Nathan Detroit is struggling to arrange an illegal dice game for New York’s gambling gangsters, while his long-suffering fiancée Adelaide begs him to quit his dodgy dealings and set up house in the suburbs. To bankroll a venue for the game, Nathan makes a bet with his friend, the suave Sky Masterson, that Sky cannot take any girl on a date to Havana, Cuba. Sky takes the bet, only for Nathan to nominate Sergeant Sarah Brown of the Save-A-Soul Mission – the only girl in New York that Sky might have trouble seducing. Guys and Dolls is a Broadway classic, adapted into an iconic Hollywood film will an all-star cast – the male leads are played by Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando respectively. There is a lot for the student performers to live up to, certainly.

In short, Guys and Dolls is showstopping

This lot, however, more than live up to the show’s legacy. From the minute the curtain rises, the cast dazzle with their wit, physicality and clear singing voices. The four protagonists are incredibly strong – Mabel Hoskins brings maturity and empathy, alongside an immaculate New York accent equal parts sweet and nasal to the cabaret singer Miss Adelaide, while Louisa Chatterton’s breathy soprano is perfectly suited to the idealistic yet tough Sarah Brown. Satvik Subramaniam continues to impress ADC audiences as Sky, while Tom Baarda’s Nathan Detroit truly dazzles. Baarda and Hoskins have wonderful chemistry and make a perfectly believable long-term couple. Often the relationship between Adelaide and Nathan is problematic, as Nathan seems pathologically afraid of commitment and dismissive of his partner, but the enduring impression from these two was their affection for each other, a testament to the effort of these two actors, and strong direction from Phoebe Rowell John.

Lucia Revel-Chion

One of the undoubted delights of Guys and Dolls is the strong ensemble nature of the show. Arthur Roadnight and Justin Wilson as the comic duo Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southwest are delightful, and excited audible gasps of joy from the audience when they launched into a tap dance break in the middle of the title number. Cameo roles that impressed were Harry Burke’s Chicago gangster Big Julie and Tom Nunan’s Lieutenant Brannigan. The surprise of the night was Heather Murray as the gender-bent Arvide Abernathy – Murray’s rendition of the oft-cut ‘More I Cannot Wish You’ was a highlight of the entire evening.

Technically, the show was incredibly slick for opening night. The set is gorgeous and intricate, and the lighting works well for mood and dramatic tension. I was blown away by the transition from Broadway to Havana. The band is also very strong, although it was a shame the audience couldn’t see them, especially as they performed the show’s fantastic overture, ‘Runyonland,’ which was treated rather like background music by an excited opening-night audience. I was slightly disappointed by the costumes, which I felt were often jarringly inappropriate for the era, especially on the chorus. It would have been lovely to see more attention paid to the costumes of the Hot Box Girls, particularly during ‘Take Back Your Mink,’ a burlesque number, but these decisions were presumably made due to budget restraints. A further exception must be given to the missionary characters, who looked fantastic in their military-esque garb.


Mountain View

The Dazzle is brutally poetic

In short, Guys and Dolls is show stopping, with a very talented cast presenting a well-put-together rendition of a piece of Broadway history. Yes, perhaps they struggle to bring a lot of depth to a show whose plot is essentially based on cobbled-together short stories and is, at its heart, rather sexist and dated, but the cast and directors bring empathy, charm and lightness to this ADC production. Simply put: a toe-tapping delight.

Lucia Revel-Chion