Guys And Dolls is one of those shows which musical fans can’t fail to adore - while also making a perfect introduction to the genre.
And with this production of the classic, I’m willing to bet that Poulton-born producer Richard Darbourne has a sure fire hit on his hands.
The ‘musical fable of Broadway’, as it is billed, tells of gambler Sky Masterson and game arranger Nathan Detroit coming to terms with loving their dolls, while the latter struggles to host a dice game for the high-rollers visiting town.
The story is told with pace, plus wit in both the dialogue and lyrics, all driven along by Gordon Greenberg’s snappy direction, while Frank Loesser’s score zings throughout, from sweeping melodies of I’ll Know and My Time Of Day to the perky Bushel And A Peck and storming Luck Be A Lady.
Making the most of an absolute gem of a role is Sophie Thompson as showgirl Miss Adelaide, lamenting her interminable engagement to fiance Nathan.
Her comic delivery is perfection, and she makes a wonderful foil to David Haig’s much put-upon Nathan, although he doesn’t quite shine as brightly as his co-stars, yet.
Their chemistry is just as brilliant as it was all those years ago, as Bernard and Lydia in Four Weddings And A Funeral - it just makes you realise what a shame it is that it’s taken this long for them to be reunited.
Siubhan Harrison makes for a delightfully feisty Sarah Brown, the mission doll who captures Sky’s heart. In a role all too often played as a drip, the fire in her heart is a refreshing change and helps the period character appeal to a contemporary audience.
And Jamie Parker as Sky is a dream too, so good it’s actually hard to put your finger on it. He draws from Marlon Brando’s cinematic portrayal of the role, while very much leaving his own stamp, blending gangster hard-man and new-found lover with ease.
Every cameo and ensemble member - including another Poulton star of stage Lucy Mae Sumner, makes their mark to help craft Damon Runyon’s Broadway landscape in fantastic cartoon, charicature style - it’s not a story for subtlety.
Choreography, especially in Havana and the Crapshooters’ Ballet, is everything you might hope for from superstar dancer Carlos Acosta, with Andrew Wright; jaw-droppingly energetic, athletic, balletic and so much more. And Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat - fronted by a superb Gavin Spokes as Nicely Nicely Johnson - is so brilliantly clever and complex-yet-simple all at once, you could watch it again and again.
The posters outside declare it the ‘most perfect musical comedy ever’, and this version is as close to perfection as I can imagine. - so Sue Me if you disagree.
Until Saturday. Call 0161 860 6517 for tickets.