There is always a danger of Damon Runyon’s characters being given too soft a focus when played out against Frank Loesser’s glorious score for Guys and Dolls.
Not so in Joseph Pitcher’s third annual Christmas musical at the Mill at Sonning. Last year the director/choreographer knocked it out of the park with a meticulously pared down production of My Fair Lady; this year Pitcher raises the bar with another inventive boutique staging of a Broadway classic.
There may be a reduced cast but the company is impeccable, slipping seamless from character roles to ensemble work with practised ease. Stephane Anelli’s excellent Nathan Detroit is a wiry, wily con, living on his nerves in search of the next crap game. It makes perfect sense that he has trouble committing to matrimony with Natalie Hope’s eternally optimistic Adelaide.
Another revelation is Victoria Serra’s distinctly frosty, Sarah Brown, melting spectacularly in the heat of Havana under the watchful eye of Richard Carson’s beguiling Sky Masterson. Serra brings so much more to Sarah’s journey than the good girl falling for the wrong guy.
Diego Pitarch’s composite set hints toward the Skid Row end of Broadway, where the brightest colours on the sidewalk are Natalie Titchener’s Salvation Army uniforms and the brightest light is the twinkle in Nathan Detroit’s eye.
The real colour however comes from Pitcher, who has slightly tweaked the tone of this classic, exposing the darker elements of the story but also bringing balance for a modern audience.
Throughout the magic remains intact, most notably in Pitcher’s dynamic choreography and Charlie Ingles’ fresh, uplifting arrangements.