The Savoy Theater has been the place to be for me in 2015: I made five visits in total, the most I went to any mainstage London house (the Southwark Playhouse actually got the most attention thanks to my three trips to Xanadu). I was enthused about going back for a chance to see Guys and Dolls, especially after seeing what you could do with it in a small space some years ago (at the Gatehouse) – just imagine it all done on a big stage! Wow! The possibility!
The set, though, didn’t go for huge New York feel, but rather an evocative but not detailed look: most of what happened what done behind a background of curiously shaped period billboards with (occasional) neon outlines, easily enough redone to imply Cuba when required. Otherwise, the decor was mostly a few chairs, a podium, a desk and a news stand. It wasn’t exactly cheap, but it looked like it wouldn’t have even taken up one moving truck.
But hey! The music! The story! So much to love! And somehow neither the Adele/Nathan Detroit nor the Sky Masterson/Sarah Brown relationships were really clicking. Now that’s not to say Siobhan Harrison wasn’t really enjoyable as Sarah (especially in the Cuban scenes) – but you want to feel energy crackling between then – Sky’s power as a skilled seducer and her curiosity to take a trip on the wild side sending big crackling bolts between them. And Adele and Nathan just seemed too damned old for there to ever be a chance of them having all of the kids Adele’s been making up for those letters back home to mom. I could mostly buy them as long suffering partners but on the lines of two decades and not just one. T
This left me with the dancing to catch my attention, and boy did it. The catfight scene in the Cuban bar was all sorts of fun, and both “Rocking the Boat” and “Luck Be a Lady” were genuine showstoppers. Is this what Carlos Acosta can do when his dancers take off their toe shoes? Wow. I’m sensing another Jerome Robbins here because these numbers alone pumped Guys and Dolls up so much they were worth a second trip.
Well … actually that’s not true, even if the dancing was a standout. Tickets to the Savoy are too damned expensive and I won’t stand for less than 4 or 5 stars, and dance alone can’t give that much of a lift. It was a serviceable but forgettable show, I’m sorry to say, and was already slipping from my memory as I was walking to the tube. Not what you want when the bill is yet to be paid and already know luck weren’t your lady that night.
(This review is for a preview performance that took place on December 17th 2015. It continues through March 12th and apparently Grand Circle seats are available for 25 for all shows – no surprise given how flat it was.)