REVIEW: Guys And Dolls, Royal Exchange, Manchester

A new staging of Guys And Dolls
A new staging of Guys And Dolls
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Like the illegal dice games that drive the story along in Guys and Dolls, you win some and you lose some in this unique production.

It’s the first time in this country that it’s been staged as an all-black performance and is never less than entertaining throughout, even if it comes across as a play with music rather than a full-blown musical.

The action shifts north of writer Damon Runyan’s original heart of Broadway settings, into deepest Harlem, and loses much of that quirky Runyanese dialogue along the way, to be replaced by an authentic local patois.

His characters come richly adorned in equally vivid costumes and the large cast’s singing, acting and dancing talents are abundantly obvious.

It’s just that Frank Loesser’s evergreen music and lyrics seem to be treated almost as an afterthought.

One or two key songs miss out on their own in-built character. Another, Bushel and a Peck, goes missing altogether, while the provocative Pet Me Poppa is revived for this production.

Nothing ever quite achieves the show-stopping style of Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat.

It’s high-quality Christmas entertainment but musical theatre purists may not quite see it as the gift they promised themselves.

It runs until January 27.

David Upton