Guys and Dolls

The Fringe’s recent winning streak of musical adaptations continues into 2012 with this raucously fun version of the enduring 1950 Broadway hit by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

Director Racky Plews proves that less is more, eschewing the razzmatazz of other revivals to make a virtue of the Gatehouse’s smaller space. Traverse staging, tangled telephone cords, peeling posters and cheekily well-timed audience participation bring to heightened life the shabby streets of a Midtown Manhattan populated by wise-cracking gangsters, loveable con-artists and showgirls.

This is a ‘Guys and Dolls’ closely in tune with the Prohibition era of the short stories by Damon Runyon, on which the musical is based.

Jamie Sampson is a slick but serious-minded Sky Masterson, the gambler who falls for missionary Sarah Brown (Amy Bailey) after Nathan Detroit – desperate to raise money for a floating crap game – bets Masterson that he can’t get her to go to Cuba with him.

Bailey is hilarious when the pair reach Havana, downing cocktails and dancing with gleeful abandon as this buttoned-up believer cuts loose. Together, she and Sampson create a touching romance among the plot’s assorted hi-jinks.

Rebecca Sutherland steals the show as brassy, big-hearted Miss Adelaide, nightclub singer and Detroit’s long-suffering fiancée of 14 years. Lighting up the stage whenever she totters on to it, she wrings every drop of wit from the brilliant ‘Adelaide’s Lament’.

Inventive choreography and atmospheric lighting mean that tent-pole numbers ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ (sung with gusto by Patrick Rufey as Nicely Nicely Johnson) also grab your attention and don’t let go. This production is one gamble that has paid off dazzlingly.

On at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 8 February

First published by Time Out