Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Sunday 10 January 2016

I Do Love a Matinée - “Guys and Dolls” at the Savoy Theatre

January isn’t my favourite month… I don’t think it’s anyone’s favourite month. Christmas and New Year’s offer the opportunity for parties and get togethers and that festive, celebratory feeling, and all January seems to offer is  cold, wet misery.

We have a remedy for this… We have more than one. The first is to try to accept invitations for events in January, wherever they come from, and the second is to have a treat. I mentioned to the dort, yesterday, that since this was the third time we’d booked this particular treat in January, it now counted as a tradition, and we must continue to do it every year.

Yesterday, we went to the theatre. The husband and I, along with the dort and her boyff, jumped on a train up to town to take in a matinée. It was the last of my birthday gifts, booked in advance, to see Guys and Dolls at the Savoy Theatre.

We made a day of it. We had tea and cake at the Savoy before the show, and met London-based pals for dinner at Quo Vadis afterwards. It was lovely! We didn’t care that it was wet and windy, and we didn’t mind the NHS protesters making their way down the Strand. Frankly, I applaud them for taking a stand, and for their good-natured and orderly conduct.

Guys and Dolls is one of the older musicals still being performed regularly. The show was adapted from short stories by Damon Runyon, notably The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown. Runyon’s original story was published in 1933, the year that prohibition ended. The musical was first produced in 1950, with songs by Frank Loesser, and a stellar cast, including Frank Sinatra, but writing on issues like prostitution was still not explicit, and certainly not for a stage musical.

Jamie Parker, front and centre, as Sky Masterson
Details of Guys and Dolls is at the Savoy Theatre
This cast was great, particularly Sophie Thompson as Adelaide, who rather put me in mind of Lucille Ball, and Jamie Parker’s Sky Masterson brought the house down. David Haig put in a nice performance as Nathan Detroit, and Gavin Spokes and Ian Hughes were great as the Johnson/Southstreet double act. The ensemble worked hard, and choreographers Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright delivered dance sequences that were clever and appropriate and often funny. The smallish stage sometimes seemed a little crowded for the amount of business that was going on, but this is a London theatre, and they tend to be on the small side. Siubhan Harrison, playing Sarah Brown, was a little underpowered, but I can’t help thinking that Thompson and Parker, in particular, cast very long shadows that it must have been tricky for her to step out of at times.

For those who could pick up the references, there was a lot to look at, listen to and like in this production. The very seedy side of prohibition America is kept off the stage, but it’s all there if you’re already familiar: The temperance movement, the conflict and violence, the prostitution (not for nothing, the club’s called ‘The Hot Box’); and the gamblers end up in the sewer, and if that’s not a metaphor, I don’t know what is. The witty lyrics are full of allusions to the times, too, and to sex.

The whole thing plays out rather well.

The audience laughed in all the right places. Part of that was to do with the performances, and it probably didn’t hurt that this was a matinée and the average age was on the high side. Having said that, the dort and the boyff enjoyed the experience, too. They both thought the first half was a little slow, but the second half romped in at a pace. The best songs were towards the end, too, with Parker giving a very good performance of Luck be a Lady. With a running time in excess of two-and-a-half hours, I think we got our money’s worth.

I’m a sucker for a West End show, and January’s a great time to see one. I can highly recommend a matinée on a cold, wet afternoon. Take your pick! We liked this; it was a great outing and we’re very glad we went. I'll be looking out for Sophie Thompson and Jamie Parker, and I'll definitely be booking tickets the next time either of them is starring in the West End.

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