Guys and Dolls review – new, improved cast at Phoenix Theatre, London
Originally booked only for a short West End season at the Savoy ahead of a regional tour, this Chichester production has now got a welcome simultaneous double life. The original production has transferred to the Phoenix with three of its four principal roles recast, while a separate company is touring it. It’s a show and a production that fully deserves the exposure.
And the transfer cast actually improves on the first West End iteration, upping my review from four to five stars — though in fact I’d like to award 27 stars, one for each member of this rich company.
Leading the thrilling new trio of principals is Samantha Spiro, replacing the over-egged Sophie Thompson as Miss Adelaide. She brings an irresistible quirky generosity to a performance that is vivacious and hilarious. There’s less self-awareness than Thompson supplied, and far more nuance, vulnerability and need. Her deeply original take on Take Back Your Mink, rendered in the comic tribute to Diedrich, is the best I’ve ever seen.
She is ideally partnered by Broadway veteran Richard Kind as Nathan Detroit, whose timing is spot-on, his plasticine features rearranging themselves at will to brilliant effect.
Meanwhile, Oliver Tompsett newly joins Siubhan Harrison, who has stayed on from the previous cast, to make the unfolding romance of professional gambler Sky Masterson and ‘mission doll’ Sister Sarah Brown, look and sound both sexy and utterly inevitable. Their dreamy vocals are a marriage made in heaven, taking the musical honours of the evening. Olivier nominee Gavin Spokes’ Nicely-Nicely Johnson is now joined by Jason Pennycooke’s dazzlingly elastic Benny Southstreet, making a comic and musical treat of the title song.
There’s not a misplaced note anywhere, and Gareth Valentine, still conducting in the pit, ensures that this greatest of Broadway scores delivers a brassy punch.