Stage review: Guys and Dolls - Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

The musical Guys and Dolls is at the Crucible Sheffield for the festive season. Picture: Johan Persson
The musical Guys and Dolls is at the Crucible Sheffield for the festive season. Picture: Johan Persson
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This is one heck of an example of how to put on a big show on a big stage and really make it sparkle from the Sheffield Theatres artistic director Robert Hastie.

While many theatres in the region come up with a show that will appeal to all the family, Sheffield has spent the past decade providing a more sophisticated serving of festive fare.

Guys and Dolls is a piece de resistance of musical theatre with a complex book and songs that just keep coming. Luck Be a Lady is followed by Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat – just imagine. You hit Luck be A Lady and you still haven’t peaked.

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The story tells of Nathan Detroit, engaged to Miss Adelaide for 14 years, who bets his old pal Sky Masterson that he can’t convince committed Christian Sarah Brown to fly to Havana with him for dinner. Of course it’s about a lot more and the evocation of a certain period of New York is key to the piece working.

Hastie works with designer Janet Bird and choreographer Matt Flint to absolute fill this special space with the sense of jazz-era New York. The story rattles along, but it is in the big set pieces where Hastie’s extraordinary directorial hand can be seen most clearly. He can really press a button in a musical.

The casting, which I once again applaud Hastie for making inclusive, also provides some of the challenging aspects of the production. Guys and Dolls demands the leads are character actors, but with so many strong characters on stage there is a demand for a unifying principle that feels somewhat absent here.

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It’s as though each of the lead performances exist in slightly different planes from each other.

The lead who comes out of this the best is Natalie Casey as Miss Adelaide who gives what is by some stretch one of the best comic performances I’ve seen this year. She is stunningly good, letting each member of the audience feel like her comic turn is just for them and each nudge and wink is shared between you and her.

She also underlines the whole thing with a beautiful amount of pathos. It’s honestly worth the ticket price just to see her performance, but there’s plenty else to enjoy from a production that will have you singing all the way home.

4 Stars

To January 18.