Guys and Dolls

13th to 22nd June 2019

Frank Loesser | Sutton Arts Theatre | Directed by Emily Armstrong and Dexter Whitehead

Taking on any classic musical which audiences already know well is risky. There’s a weight of expectation. There aren’t many shows more well-known than ‘Guys and Dolls’, much-loved and hailed by critics as a “perfect musical comedy” when it opened on Broadway back in 1950. Throw in the 1955 film starring Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Jean Simmons, countless stage revivals and a host of familiar songs and there’s plenty of pressure for any company. It’s a gamble but thankfully, under the direction of Emily Armstrong and Dexter Whitehead, Sutton Arts’ roll of the dice pays off with a resounding win: this is a hugely impressive piece of amateur theatre.

Set in a mythical New York underworld and based on short stories by Damon Runyon, the plot centres around Salvation Army officer Sister Sarah Brown’s attempts to convert gambling gangsters into God-fearing Christians. Cons, illegal crap games and religious conversion aside, the show is at heart an oddball romantic comedy and in this production the four love leads successfully create a chemistry which holds the whole joyful boat-ride together.

Aarron Armstrong-Craddock brings a cheeky charm to crap game promoter Nathan Detroit, the juvenile delinquent who has never quite grown up. His long-suffering fiancée of 14 years, Miss Adelaide, is played with understated power and panache by Suzy Donnelly. She nails the wonderfully comic lament in the first act, sniffling and sneezing through her ‘psychosomatic symptoms’ in a delightful performance.

Head of the ‘Save-a-Soul’ mission, the virtuous Sarah Brown is played with control and poise by Leah Fennell, neatly capturing the prim and proper evangelist. She’s equally strong when the action shifts to Havana and she lets her hair down: the first act scene in which she is plied with ‘flavoured’ milkshakes by Tim Benjamin’s smooth-talking Sky Masterson is sweetly endearing. Combining self-assured charm with an easy style, Tim Benjamin captures the likeable nature of Sky Masterson perfectly: he lifts the company to new heights in the second act in a finely choreographed performance of ‘Luck Be A Lady’.

Richard Howell turns in an effortless performance as Nathan’s gambling associate Nicely-Nicely Johnson and has the voice to carry the company in the show’s highlight second act number, ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’. There’s excellent support from the whole ensemble, variously injecting life into crapshooters, hotbox girls and mission band members to bring 1950s Manhattan to the stage.

An exuberant production of a timeless musical. No gambling for the audience here: a dead cert guaranteed to leave guys and dolls alike feeling like winners.

‘Guys and Dolls’ is playing at the Sutton Arts Theatre in Sutton Coldfield until Friday 22nd June 2019.



Guys and Dolls