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Guys and Dolls


Bridge Theatre

3 Potters Fields Park, London SE1 2SG 0333 320 0051

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  • Synopsis
  • Theatremonkey show opinion
  • Reader reviews
  • Performance schedule
  • Ticket prices

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS / "BUY OR AVOID" SEAT GUIDE

Ends 4th January 2025.

1930's / 1940's New York. Professional huckster Nathan Detroit runs the oldest established permanent floating crap game in town, while also juggling the demands of Miss Adelaide - the Hot Box dancer who would marry him if he would only commit!

Sky Masterson is a gambler too. While in town for one of Nathan's games, he accepts a bet that he can date "Save A Soul Mission" girl Sarah Brown. He does, but it's a disaster, and in despair he promises to save her Mission hall by providing one dozen genuine sinners at a midnight revival meeting.

Nicholas Hytner takes a crack at this classic show, using his "promenade" layout to involve the public in the action.

NOTE: Arrive back to your seats after the interval at least 10 minutes early so as not to miss a little extra "pre-second half show."
 

(seen at the afternoon preview performance on 11th March 2023). Some actors have now left the cast.

We can get the formalities over quickly. The show is one of the finest musicals ever written. Score, book, lyric, characterisations, construction. Endlessly revived since 1950 and coming up “fresh as a lapel carnation” every single time.

Second, the National Theatre’s production of 1982 was definitive. It set a benchmark for the show in London against which every other production is measured.

Thus the monkey can dispense with notes on the show itself and has explained its strong memories - against which it can calibrate Nicholas Hytner’s try.

This production’s major strength also turns out to be its greatest weakness... "immersive staging.” This is theatre-speak for letting a portion of the audience stand in an empty space out of which designer Bunny Christie’s stages raise and lower, and actors emerge from the crowd on their way to and from scenes – pausing to interact on occasion. 

It cuts the cast down while giving us a New York bustle to play with. It allows some well-devised laughs but perhaps some crass and unnecessary ones. Certainly for those willing to be shepherded around for nearly three hours at least some will get a good close-up of the action and a thrilling moment, perhaps even a memento to take home.

For those of us watching from the side-lines it all looks quite fun in a “glad I’m not there myself” way and we get to appreciate a perfect visual moment to end a later song too.

The problem is that it constricts what the show can do in terms of choreography. Arlene Phillips and James Cousins do not have the physical space to allow the actors to do much more than fling their arms around and bend a little on the narrow platforms available. 

That close, the Hotbox numbers are robbed of sexuality and sensuality by being squeezed into regimented cubes, the Crap-Shooter’s Ballet a sort of queue; the unruly exuberance which should have the boat near capsizing is almost a big splash but not nearly the stage-truck rocking, wall shaking Olivier Theatre number it should rightfully be.

Of the two central couples, Andrew Richardson and Celinde Schoenmaker are easily the stronger. His Sky is younger than usual, a slightly dreamy edge that fascinates Sarah. For her part, the voice has a delightful range and expressiveness, and her Havana antics are a highlight.

Daniel Mays takes a little time to find his authority as Nathan Detroit. Perhaps his first encounter with Lieutenant Brannigan (neatly confounded from Cornelius Clarke) is the start of a performance which does not perhaps dominate the stage as it should but isn’t quite as bombastic as previous incarnations either.

Marisha Wallace as his Miss Adelaide is the complete antithesis. More Beyonce than the soft, optimistic, intelligent and bewildered woman we expect, the whole effect changes her relationship with every other character. Would someone that strong be led on by Nathan without resistance? Her final “Marry The Man Today” duet with Sarah is not perhaps the shared experience of two innocents which makes it usually such a cathartic joy. A different choice indeed.

In other roles, Cedric Neal is a grinning Nicely-Nicely Johnson, doing his best to get the boat rocking. Cameron Johnson is a huge Big Jule, the usual casting of a tiny actor eschewed to remove a rather tired cliché. 

Paule Constable comes up with a neon lit skyline with traffic signals passing comment on proceedings, while Carter Bellaimey takes a nod for sustaining the accents all round – though perhaps someone could work on “I’ve never BEEN in love before” rather than “bin.” 

The orchestra sounds fuller than the stringless National Theatre one was, which is rather lovely, though it is somewhat muffled for those like the monkey sitting underneath their balcony perch.

Nicholas Hytner has created something different and interesting, and not just in the inventively inclusive crowd inhabiting Broadway. Sadly this is not revelatory in the way his last employer’s venue managed but certainly this is the best production since then – beating easily the anaemic last outing that crawled to expire into the Phoenix Theatre after a better run at the Savoy.

As an introduction to the show for those who won’t remember 1982 (and if you do, you weren’t there) it can’t be bettered. For those who were, a chance to polish the memories and perhaps add a little embellishment to their tales of encountering this enduring classic of Broadway.

NOTE: Do return early to your seats for the second act as you will not want to miss the Hi-Hi Boys interval pre-show.
 

Guys & Dolls

Hard to believe but I've got to the age of 61 loving musicals but never having seen this one so I had no idea what to expect. Sadly, I thought it was a paper thin plot dragged out for nearly three hours with no likeable characters. Rocking the Boat was fabulous but a long time coming. I also found the immersive thing very distracting. It was like seeing a coach party arriving late over and over again !

Guys and Dolls

A fabulous production. True to the original spirit of the show, but with very modern staging that rose and fell seemlessly - the audience on the floor were being moved around continuously, which I was worried would be distracting, but it wasn't at all. The cast were all spot on. I'll be going again.

Legacy reader reviews

My friends and I enjoyed this phenomenal new production. We sat in stalls Row A 1-3 and had a wonderful view of stage, highly recommended BUT very, very limited legroom to the point of real discomfort. I'm 5'7" and my friends 5"5' and I watched the 2nd half standing in front my seat which luckily didn't obstruct the patron behind." 
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Stalls DD 22 and 23 (whole row affected). The stalls restriction for £55 seats is absolutely ridiculous. I was so disappointed last night not to see ANY of the lighting design they are emphasising so heavily in publicity. Like taking a West End stage and slapping a blackout across the top half.
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Gallery 1, seat B18: (Broadway John). Great view. Good legroom. Comfortable. Restroom on opposite side.
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Guys & Dolls on Saturday was my 2nd visit this trip. The first time I saw it I had Mark Oxtoby (Benny Southstreet) as Nathan. Thought he was very good. This time, he was playing his regular role as Benny but every time I saw him on stage I kept thinking he was Nathan! I found Daniel Mays as Nathan super boring – no charisma at all. I loved Mays on Line Of Duty. Sadly we had a lot of understudies for this performance, the most being missed were Nicely and Big Jule. We seemed really short on men. During Luck Be A Lady, we were missing 3 guys. When Sky delivered his 12 sinners, there were actually 11 but apparently missionaries don’t know how to count! LOL

Gallery 2 seat B 72: View was sometimes obstructed but not terrible. For the price it was good. Seat and legroom got uncomfortable after a while. 

Broadway John.
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One of the greatest musicals of all time, the challenge is how to extract something new and interesting from it’s rich history (note I said new AND INTERESTING 'OKLAHOMA'). The Bridge Theatre gives the opportunity to do so with its raising platform stage. This gives the chance to set up an immersive production in which a number of the audience (this is the choice we made) to become part of the show, creating the busy New York crowd.

The story is so well known, but for those that don’t know I’ll do a very quick synopsis: Gambler Nathan Detriot, who organises the longest running Craps game in New York, has ‘issues’ arranging the next venue. Worried about the threat of a bust, the next venue host wants $1,000 stake money up front. $1,000 Detroit doesn’t have.  An opportune visit by professional gambler Sky Masterson gives Detroit the chance to set up a guaranteed bet… that Masterson can’t get together with someone… Salvation Army girl Sarah.

Scene set, back to the show.  As we move (literally and physically) from scene to scene, the stage lifts and drops to create another venue and perspective, with props appearing out of nowhere (very slick, well done crew) to set up the next moment.  

This does cause some choreography problems, as the dancers often have limited space to perform, but overall it uses the space to create new locations in a very effective way.

Credit to set and lighting. It’s a brash, neon-fed New York we are given, and the lights adapt with the staging to create each location.

There are some questions about the casting I’d like to address. Daniel May’s Nathan Detroit.  I think he takes a little time to really inhabit the role, but I like the direction he goes with Detroit.  Not the brash hustler that is normally portrayed - if he was, why is he struggling to raise the stake money for the venue? - but more of a street hustler (think New York 'Arthur Daly' and you won’t go far wrong).  

And Marisha Wallace - yes on stage she’s all power, magnetism and confidence, but off-stage she’s full of insecurities and it’s convincing she’d hang on to Nathan in the hope that one of these days he’ll do the right thing (a performer that is filled with confidence but offstage insecure?  A lot of the West End will identify).

The songs are, as ever, a masterpiece. And, of course, it Down You’re Rocking The Boat' (brava to Cedric Neal for punching this number out of the park - frankly we could have happily had more renditions than they’d allowed time for) steals the show.

No idea what the show was like from the seats, but being part of it (nice touch is how the cast would come off stage and talk to audience members, it really brought you into the show) was a fascinating and different way to see a show. I was worried about standing the whole time - the first half is pretty long - but as you move about a lot it isn’t so bad.  Yes you run the risk of someone moving in front of you, but at least you can change position… something you can’t do in a seat.

If you feel you can handle standing, go for it.  It will reward (and if you’re so inclined you get to join in and mingle with the cast at the very end).

On another visit,
Stalls Seated C63 and 64.
These seats are... strange.  For some reason the theatre has elected to install high chairs, meaning you have to put your feet on footrests.  Even at 5'10" I could feel by feet losing feeling after a time, for my wife at 5' 1/2" she struggled to get in them, move about and retain any feeling in her legs. I wouldn't sit here again.

Bob Pickett.
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Stalls C22 and C23 (Guys and Dolls): enjoyed sitting here. The seats are quite high off the ground (good for the rake), but there is a bar to rest your feet on. Seats are angled towards the stage. The overhang means you miss some of the overhead neon lighting coming down, but on the plus side, the happenings on the stage are at eye level.

I have to confess I didn’t enjoy it as much as you did. We had a different Sky and Miss Adelaide to you, so can’t compare individual performances, but I think I prefer the more usual characterisations of both. The immersiveness was a bit distracting (3 fainters!) and the roving stage action tricky to follow. I don’t have the 1982 to compare against, but I did enjoy very much the Chichester production.
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Gallery 2, C43: Lighting rig sometimes slightly blocked action. Great view overall. Legroom comfortable enough. Was very annoying people sat in front of me leaned forward a lot which blocked my view unless I leaned forward. No row behind me so not concerned about me blocking someone's view.

Broadway John.
 

 

The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.

Monday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

Runs 2 hours 40 minutes approximately.

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS / "BUY OR AVOID" SEAT GUIDE

Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.

Spaces on a platform for "access" customers will be in an area in front of row A 31 to 33 and 42 to 44, and may cause a restricted view if anyone tall is in front.

CLICK SEATING PLAN TO ENLARGE IF REQUIRED. USE "BACK" BUTTON TO RETURN.

Bridge Theatre prices seating plan

 

RUSH TICKETS: App Todaytix are offering £25 "Rush tickets," located at venue discretion, for all performances. Released for the performance on that day, first-come, first-served. Download the App from Todaytix

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