The Bridge Theatre, although relatively new, is fast becoming known for reinventing classics. After 2019’s hugely successful immersive reinvention of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, Nicholas Hytner is attempting to repeat this success with Guys & Dolls. If it’s not broken don’t fix it some would say. Is it really necessary to put this musical theatre classic in a semi-immersive setting? The answer is YES! This ground-breaking production of Guys & Dolls is simply magnificent.
The theatre itself is presented in the round… or in the rounded rectangle if we are being specific. Audience members are stood scattered around the floor, mingling with cast members as if on the streets of New York, with train and traffic sounds filling the space. The stage cleverly rises out of the floor in countless sections and formations, with the audience being carefully ushered about. This is somehow done without causing any distractions, keeping the audience both immersed and safe. Each formation creates a completely new location, with neon lights and street lights descended from the ceiling making each one clear. I cannot rave enough about Bunny Christie’s flawless staging, taking the audience seamlessly from the New York streets to Havana and beyond. It really does have to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
Marisha Wallace being cast sparked my interest to book a ticket, and she didn’t disappoint as Miss Adelaide. Having seen her in a number of productions, I can confidently say this is truly a career defining moment for her. Her vocals are utterly delicious, as she brings a new interpretation to Adelaide. Typically, the character is played a little over-the-top and overly ditzy, but Wallace plays her more sincerely and we instantly warm to her as a result. The often-reprised comedic moments around her lying about her marriage and family with Nathan Detroit (Daniel Mays) bring some of the biggest laughs of the night.
The absolute stand-out moment however is reserved for Cedric Neals impeccable rendition of ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat.’ The song has NEVER sounded better with his incredible riffs, putting his stamp all over the classic. Even with the multiple encores, the audience still can’t get enough. The applause was so loud that I even got a loud sound warning on my smart watch! If Neal doesn’t win an Olivier for this performance, I would be shocked.
Supported by Andrew Richardson as career gambler Sky Masterton and missionary Sarah Brown (Celinde Schoenmaker), the cast is faultless. Schoenmaker’s vibrato perfectly complements Richardson’s smooth rich vocals, making their scenes a joy to watch. I find it hard to believe this is Richardson’s stage debut, more than holding his own with an unbelievable all-
star cast. With a debut as strong as this, it is safe to say he is future west end royalty!
This is a prime example of injecting new life into a classic show well. If Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club reinvented immersive revivals, then Guys & Dolls rips up the rule book and re-writes it completely. Although the source material is arguably dated in places, nods to the LGBT+ community help keep it relatable and inclusive. The boundaries of body inclusivity have been rightly pushed, with Marisha Wallace bringing a strong, curvy and unapologetically self-assured Miss Adelaide to the stage. Guys & Dolls feels fresher than ever and will no doubt be this years must have ticket!
Guys & Dolls is on at Bridge Theatre until 02/09/2023. See below for booking information:
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan
Note: My ticket was bought. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.