|Innovative staging and an exceptional cast lift popular musical to whole new level
|Damon Runyon invented the richest set of characters in American literature. His guys are petty criminals, gamblers, always ,escaping the law and yet utterly loveable. This, show, based on Runyon's short stories, has been described as the most perfect musical - without a single dud tune and it is everybody's favourite - so well known that it is difficult to avoid singing along to Frank Loesser's brilliant music and lyrics.
It has had many productions in the West End and at the National but this one is a superlative interpretation by Racky Plews with a magical cast and probably the most prestigious creative team in London. Lee Proud (resident choreographer on Billy Elliot) staged the wonderful High Society at the Gatehouse and his work here is equally innovative. The famous mission number Sit Down, You're Rockin' The Boat is excitingly staged.
The set by Martin Thomas, twice nominated for Gatehouse productions in the Off West End Awards, is a miracle of ingenuity. On a bare traverse acting area, he and Racky have managed to perform multiple set changes without the aid of black boxes or blackouts and
lighting designer Howard Hudson is simply one of the very best in British theatre. The band is somewhere up above and hidden. Joanna Chichonska has her work cut out as musical director and succeeds without a hitch.
An exceptional cast has been brought together on this project. Jamie Sampson is charismatic and mellow voiced as Sky and Amy Bailey as Sarah really comes into her own in the comedy sequences in Havana. Especially impressive are Patrick Rufey and Jos Slovick as Nicely Nicely and Benny who do a brilliant and acrobatic rendering of the title song. Rebecca Sutherland is hilarious and poignant as Adelaide, the "cold" song (Adelaide's Second Lament) has never been sung better and James Kermack is suitably harassed as her long-lasting fiancé, the dodgy Nathan Detroit.
This is a show that is full of joy, love and high professionalism. Its run has also been extended so you have plenty of time to be part of the gang.
Review Aline Waites
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