Musical: Guys and Dolls and Ewan

Last night I caught a preview of the Donmar's production of Guys and Dolls The Musical staring Ewan McGregor, Jane Krakowski, Douglas Hodge and Jenna Russell. It wasn't until I got to the theatre and noticed the "house full" sign up that I realised what may lie in store...

While they had only been playing in front of an audience since last Thursday, to describe this show as sensational would have to be an understatement. What sets it apart from the other star vehicles that have come to the West End, is that this is a great piece of music theatre. People were actually enjoying the music as well. Afterall a show with songs such as "Luck be a Lady" "A Bushel and A Peck" "I've Never Been In Love Before" and "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat" is a bit hard not to like. Especially with lyrics such as:

Marry the man today
Give him the girlish laughter
Give him your hand today
And save the fist for after. - Marry The Man Today


You can spray her wherever you figure there's streptococci lurk
You can give her a shot for whatever's she's got, but it just won't work
If she's tired of getting the fish eye from the hotel clerk
A person can develop a cold. - Adelaide's Lament


Ask me how do I feel, ask me now that we're fondly caressing
Well, if I were a salad I know I'd be splashing my dressing - If I Were A Bell


Of note:
  • The audience probably weren't all there for Frank Loesser's music and lyrics (written back in 1950). Ewan McGregor as Sky Masterson had the charisma and the voice to carry it off. Is he as good to see from the fourth row as he is on screen? The answer would have to be yes... And it is worth noting that it isn't the easiest of roles to take on either - singing songs with a Noo Yawk accent where the notes are all over the place...
  • Of course it is the role of Nathan Detroit that normally gets top billing, but Douglas Hodge had to settle for third. He was great and when Ewan and Jane Krakowski are ahead of you, who could complain? Doug's blog also details the reason for the inclusion of an additional number called "Adelaide" in the first act. Apparently Loesser wrote it for the film and it was up to Mrs Loesser who attended the first preview to agree to whether it would stay or go. It was still in last night...
  • Krakowski was fantastic and got all the all the laughs as Miss Adelaide. Jenna Russell as Sarah Brown was billed fourth and she was fabulous, but it was a crime the awful wig they made her wear as part of the "Save A Soul" troupe. Sure she had to look uptight, but surely she didn't have to look that bad??
  • It wasn't just the star power that got people through the show. The rest of the cast were exceptional. While the leads will get their raves when the reviews come out in a few weeks, a special mention has to be given to "Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat" in the second act performed by Martyn Ellis as Nicely Nicely Johnson. This number stopped the show. And it stopped the show for several minutes. As hard as the cast tried to continue with the show the audience just wouldn't shut up screaming and cheering after the number. In a way the outburst of appreciation had been building up all evening (especially after "Luck Be a Lady" and the crapshooters dance in the second act) that the audience just had to orgasm at this point for its own sake and it didn't stop until everyone had got it out of their system.
  • My knowledge of Guys and Dolls prior to last night extended to a copy of the 1992 Broadway revival (with Nathan Lane) and having endured the Frank Sinatra / Marlon Brando Movie. The former made the show a cartoon and the latter embalmed it. This production seems to have got the balance just right. The music was slower, the orchestrations were richer, and it seemed to be just the thing...
  • Since the rest of the show was so good, you could start thinking about the costumes and the set and the like. The set struck me initially as a leftover from the Donmar's production of Grand Hotel but I was thankfully proven wrong. There wasn't a great deal of over-the-top colour in this production but it was clear there had been a conscientious choice to bring the production back to some level of reality. Afterall the characters were gamblers and strippers based on the stories of Daymon Runyon
  • You know you haven't just seen an ordinary show when the queue for autographs outside the stage door at the end of the show is over 100 people and there were two security guards on duty to keep everything under control... Well a week earlier he was in Leicester Square opening that movie where he cuts off Anakin Skywalker's legs and arms...
  • The show is booking until March 2006. Ewan McGregor has signed up for a couple of months and I suspect his run will have practically sold out, but for me the show and the production was the star. If they are as good as they are after less than a week of previews, in a few months...

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