Guys and Dolls Review | Royal Exchange | Manchester
“What’s the number?”
With a charismatic cast, sharp humour and a moving backdrop of Harlem’s streets, director Michael Buffong’s Guys and Dolls rivals its silver screen predecessor. Some stories play better live. Here the Royal Exchange’s round theatre inhabits a kaleidoscope of colours as the peacock suited men all bring characteristics as memorable as their names.
The story overlaps between Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson. Nathan’s famous floating craps game is in jeopardy if he can’t front the money for the venue or if his fiancé of 14 years (Miss Adelaid) finds out he’s still running it. Wagering the money against Sky, the two men stake Sky’s ability to win the heart of a local missionary named Sarah Brown.
Two of the most compelling antiheroes, Ray Fearon (Nathan Detroit) and Ashley Zhangazha (Sky Masterson) smoothly seduce their associates and their audience with their sublimely timed comedic delivery. Notably, Lucy Vandi (Miss Adelaide) masterfully juggles her comedic scenes and skilled vocals during her quest for an official husband.
Being bad has never looked so good as we are introduced to the “lovable lowlifes” as risky, gun-toting sinners who only truly fear the loss and respect of their ladies. The shows shiftable narrative has been placed in Harlem, inserting a helping of gospel, jazz and soul into the long-running 1951 musical. The Royal Exchange is presenting the first all-black Guys and Dolls in Britain and unsurprisingly, it has been extended for a further two weeks following mounting praise and popularity.
Designer, Soutra Gilmour has shaped one of the most intricate designs I have seen at the Royal Exchange. Its street lights decent from the ceiling and span across the stage floors and its club quarters quickly pivot into church pews. An enticingly energetic production is also helped by the gifted cast who sing alongside a 9-piece band. The hits, Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat and Luck Be a Lady Tonight have been delicately handled as the round requires fluid movements and continuous action to be viewed on all of its three circular tiers.
Michael Buffong brings a new flare to the familiar, highlighting that we needn’t mothball the oldies but rather create a space for new directors to present their vision of the classics. This is a superb production of Guys and Dolls that will leave a lasting impression on its audience due to its well-mixed medley of drama, comedy and music.