Guys and Dolls is stuffed full of iconic images of 1920s America. There are dames, gangsters, dice games and more fedoras than you can shake a Tommy gun at.
Robert Hastie’s pacy production manages to be light on its feet without losing the epic, sweeping feel of the big city. It’s a modern take on a classic that sidesteps gimmicks in favour of sharp edges.
Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre has a reputation for crafting stellar, large-scale musicals. Recent hits include Standing at the Sky’s Edge and last year’s lavish production of Kiss Me, Kate. This year’s offering has both a big cast and a big heart. Precision is evident in everything from Will Stuart’s musical arrangements to the costume detailing.
Designer Janet Bird’s set features multiple revolves, with the pieces sliding into place like a game of Tetris. With the large band positioned above the action in loft apartments, her design evokes the bustling night-time New York streets below.
Frank Loesser’s musical take on Damon Runyon’s short stories focuses on two messy romances. A reprobate sinner Sky Masterson (Kadiff Kirwan) and the woman who might just save his soul (Alex Young) take New York alongside gambler Nathan Detroit (Martin Marquez) and his long – 14 years long – suffering fiancé Miss Adelaide (Natalie Casey).
Marquez and Casey are an utter joy, while Kirwan and Young are hugely watchable and swoony, even if Kirwan’s vocals get a little drowned out in such fierce company. His rendition of Luck Be a Lady tonight sparkles with charisma but doesn’t quite have the power to bring the house down.
Good as everyone is, the show belongs to Casey’s squeaky voiced Adelaide. Her performance is nothing short of comic perfection. Every song glitters with ad-libbed facial expressions and physical comedy, and she achieves a seemingly impossible balance between savvy street-smart and dizzying ridiculousness.
Choreographer Matt Flint again shows off his flair with large ensembles. The cast fills the large stage, weaving across the set’s revolving concentric floors with the seamless elegance of a croupier shuffling a pack of cards.
Its versatility sees cast members confidently shift from burning up the floor in the steamy Havana to going full Broadway in TJ Lloyd’s rambunctious take on Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat. These numbers also allow the large cast space to play, with whole character arcs told in the instrumental breaks through a pirouette and a wink.
It’s a long old show, running at over three hours, but provides a welcome escape into a painstakingly structured fantasy. This is a classy, finessed interpretation. If Guys and Dolls is a vintage suit, Hastie has tailored it for now.