Reviews Roundup: Guys And Dolls

The Bridge Theatre

The cast of Guys And Dolls at the Bridge Theatre London dance on stage
Guys And Dolls at the Bridge Theatre. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Frank Loesser’s 1950 classic musical Guys And Dolls is given a significant makeover by Nicholas Hytner at The Bridge Theatre. His ‘big idea’ is to produce an immersive production in which some of the audience stand in the middle of the auditorium while sets rise and lower around them. Most critics liked the atmosphere this created although there was some disagreement about whether it helped or hindered the story, which is based on Damon Runyon’s humorous tales of New York street life. Bunny Christies’s set and the (Olivier winning) choreography by Arlene Phillips and James Cousins were also well received.  There may be some variations in opinion but no review awarded less than four stars. Since the opening night reviews appeared, there has been a change of cast so the many highly complimentary remarks about the singer/actors have been omitted from this summary.  (The new cast has also been praised.)

Susannah Clapp in The Observer (5★) led the charge: ‘Fuelled by Bunny Christie’s design, Tom Brady’s musical supervision and choreography by Arlene Phillips with James Cousins, it swings up, down and sideways, enveloping the audience without ever dimming the dazzle of performance.’ ‘This is immersive theatre with real point,’ she continued, explaining ‘the story ‘needs city jostle and faces from the street.’ The choreography, she said, ‘whisks across small spaces without seeming cramped, and has more flare than flounce, more expression than attitude.’

For Clive Davis in The Times (5★), it was ‘sheer bliss’. ‘On a cold, wet night, we had found our little corner of heaven,’ he purred, and noted ‘Bunny Christie’s neon-trimmed design is as stylish as the period costumes’.

Quentin Letts in The Sunday Times (5★) exulted in his idiosyncratic way about the ‘Joy, laughter, liberation from all the ghastly priggishness of the 21st century.’ Helen Hawkins reporting for The Arts Desk (5★) called it an ‘exuberant new production’. John Nathan in The Jewish Chronicle (5★) described how ‘The air is thrillingly charged with a frisson of danger and the energy of the in-yer-face performances.’ ‘it is the ambition of the evening that astounds’ he said.

For Nick Curtis in The Standard (5★), it’s a ‘near-flawless’ production. ‘I can’t stress enough the meticulousness and care that has gone into every aspect of this show. Blissful and exhilarating,’ he said. and ‘The choreography, by Arlene Phillips and James Cousins, in these tight and elevated spaces, is astonishing. Sarah Crompton at Whats On Stage (5★) declared it to be ‘a definitive and joyous piece of theatre. It is an absolute triumph, not to mention a blast.’ Throughout, the choreography by Arlene Phillips and the co-director James Cousins, fills the space with movement that is both classy and cool…  It is a wonder and a tonic.’

Dominic Cavendish in The Telegraph (5★) loved the way ‘Hytner’s box of tricks, the Bridge, unleashes the show all around you if you’re one of the 380 punters standing in the thick of it. Even when seated, you’re gazing upon an extravaganza that explodes every which way.’ He liked ‘Hytner’s impeccable feelgood escapism’ and was impressed that ‘The choreography (Arlene Phillips and James Cousins) is fast and fluid, not too fancy, using spatial constriction to evoke a joyous hustle and bustle.’

Isobel Lewis in The Independent (4★) was much more enthusiastic: ‘The staging may be inventive, but this production already feels like a classic, knowing when to rock the boat and when to stick to what works. And boy, does it work.’ Sam Marlowe at the Stage (4★) thought, ‘The staging doesn’t reframe the show in any revelatory new way.’ Thus disagreeing with Susannah Clapp at The Observer (above) who said it had ‘a real point’. On the whole though, she declared that the production ‘sure is one swell time.’

Arifa Akbar from The Guardian (4★) in the seated area had a different view (in both senses), grumbling, ‘It was clear that the promenading audience was experiencing the show differently’. She was an outlier when it comes to the choreography, which in her opinion, ‘never quite flies, maybe owing to the slightly cramped size of the sets.’ Comparing it unfavourably with the Young Vic production of Oklahoma!, she said it is ‘an emphatically traditional enactment of the story itself, with period dress (costumes by Deborah Andrews) and exaggeratedly cartoonish characters.’   She acknowledged that it is ‘a feat of innovative staging’.

Guys And Dolls is running at the Bridge Theatre until 4 January 2025.   Click here to buy tickets direct from the theatre

Average critics’ rating 4.7★
Value Rating 49 (Value rating is the Average Critic Rating divided by the typical ticket price. In theory, this means the higher the score the better value but, because of price variations, a West End show could be excellent value if it scores above 30 while an off-West End show may need to score above 60.)

Link to Paul Seven Lewis’s review of Guys And Dolls

If you’ve seen Guys And Dolls, please add your review and rating below

Be the first to write a review

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *