Reviewed by Adrienne Francs

Aged 5, I regularly sang along in the car with my am-dram dad to the whole production of Guys and Dolls. We’d practice harmonizing and lines, and I thought nothing of singing along to the likes of “It says here // The female remaining single // Just in the legal sense // Shows a neurotic tendancy..” Now age 35, I struggled to be diplomatic when my Uber driver asks me ‘so what was the show about?’ (Well, a bunch of misogynist gamblers {one who won’t commit to his long term girlfriend, [who is a stripper and obsessed with getting married as her sole validation in life] and one who harasses a missionary worker into a relationship via spiking her drink and other general coercive stalker behaviour} struggle to find a venue for their illegal craps game.  Then they find a venue.  The end.) It turns out, Guys and Dolls wouldn’t pass any Bechdel test. Not even close.

PUTTING ALL OF THAT TO ONE SIDE, this specific run of the 50s Classic had some highs and lows worth noting.  Firstly, the set was charming!  An arc of vintage advertising which quickly switched to the NY skyline, and the lights of Broadway. Similarly, the costumes were a vintage yet colourful palette, bringing the stage to life.  Strong performances from Richard Fleeshman as a charming Sky Masterson whose bold voice carried many of the numbers, and Louise Dearman who created a hilarious (albeit depressing!) Miss Adelaide with powerful confidence.  Special mention goes to Jack Edwards whose Nicely-Nicely Johnson felt too small a role for such a powerhouse of a voice and personality.  Unsurprisingly ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’ was the best part of the show, with the entire cast working together to bring the audience to their feet.

Biggest disappointment was Maxwell Caulfield, who was my main interest in seeing this production run, as I’d loved loving him as a ‘cool rider’ in Grease 2 (by far the superior of the two!) and loved hating him as Rex Manning in Empire Records. Here, however, I felt nothing.  He appeared to put no effort into his choreography, which felt lacklustre as he tripped along behind others during group numbers, though he adopted strange twitchy gestures and stances the rest of the time as though he’d been inspired by ‘Suzanne “Crazy-Eyes” Warren’ from Orange Is the New Black.  It was difficult to hear some of his lines, and I’m not sure I can even remember any of his singing at all.  Overall it seemed like he was ready for the production run to be over, and whilst there’s only one more stop on the tour after Wolverhampton, I’d expected a much greater degree of professionalism from someone of his standing.

Guys and Dolls plays at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until Saturday 23 July. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk

About The Author

Editor at large of Polaroids and Polar Bears, PR bod and not-so-secret geek. Chris established Polaroids and Polar Bears in 2013.

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