Musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows based on Damon Runyon's tales of New York City. Sarah Brown, the upright but uptight 'mission doll,' out to reform the evildoers of New York's Time Square; Sky Masterson, the slick, high-rolling gambler who woos her on a bet... and ends up falling in love; Adelaide, the chronically ill nightclub performer whose condition is brought on by the fact she's been engaged to the same man for 14 years; Nathan Detroit, her devoted fiance, desperate as always to find a spot for his infamous floating crap game.
Damon Runyon's writing - columns, poems, anecdotes, and stories for mass consumption - fed the public's voyeuristic interest in both celebrity and criminal culture. His style vividly rendered the speech of diverse ethnic and socioeconomic groups, giving voice to the feelings of those who may not have had a university education and who were not privy to highbrow culture. He wrote over seventy short stories between 1929 and his death in 1946 for popular magazines like Collier's, Cosmopolitan, and occasionally the Saturday Evening Post. While the venues of these stories often included various racetracks in Florida, Maryland, and upstate New York and descriptions of their gambling machinations, the point of view is always that of a New York City narrator, and it is thus appropriate to term all of Runyon's stories 'Broadway' stories. Hilarious, high-spirited, sophisticated, and insightful, they showed how differently the underclasses lived from the wealthy and how life was hardscrabble for many New Yorkers. Broadway was the quintessence of the melting pot, and Runyon revelled in its variety; the road to prosperity for lower East Side Jews and other immigrants often went straight through Times Square. Runyon was not merely an observer of urban life; he was also a player who interacted with the Broadway figures criminals, gamblers, chorus girls, and journalists - he described. He gave his readers a unique insider's sense of New York in the period between the world wars, with a special focus on the moral ambiguity of the Prohibition era (1920 to 1933) when alcoholic beverages were banned in America. Despite his cynicism, he made his reputation by revealing New York City to outsiders and showing them its seamy side, even as its inhabitants held out the hope that their dreams, like his and that of Sky and Sarah in Guys and Dolls, might be fulfilled.
Original London West End Production (London Coliseum)- 1953
Opened 28 May 1953, Closed 25 September 1954 at the London Coliseum
The original cast featured Jerry Wayne as 'Sky Masterson', Lizbeth Webb as 'Miss Sarah Brown', Sam Levene as 'Nathan Detroit' and Vivian Blaine as 'Miss Adelaide' with Stubby Kaye as 'Nicely-Nicely Johnson', Robert Cawdron as 'Lieutenant Brannigan', Colleen Clifford as 'General Matilda B Cartwright', Ernest Butcher as 'Arvide Abernathy', Johnny Silver as 'Benny Southstreet', Lew Herbert as 'Big Jule' and Tom Pedi as 'Harry the Horse'. Directed by Arthur Lewis based on the original direction by George S Kaufman with musical staging by Merritt Thompson based on the original musical staging by Michael Kidd, sets by Jo Mielziner and costumes by Alvin Colt.
1st West End Revival (National Theatre / Prince of Wales Theatre) - 1982 / 1985
Previewed 26 February 1982, Opened 9 March 1982, Closed 15 October 1983 (in repertory) at the NT Olivier Theatre
Returned 12 April 1984, Closed 15 September 1984 (in repertory) at the NT Olivier Theatre
Previewed 13 June 1985, Opened 19 June 1985, Closed 26 April 1986 at the Prince of Wales
Presented by the National Theatre. The original cast at the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre featured Ian Charleson as 'Sky Masterson', Julie Covington as 'Miss Sarah Brown', Bob Hoskins as 'Nathan Detroit' and Julia McKenzie as 'Miss Adelaide' with David Healy as 'Nicely-Nicely Johnson', Harry Towb as 'Lieutenant Brannigan', Irlin Hall as 'General Matilda B Cartwright', John Normington as 'Arvide Abernathy', Barrie Rutter as 'Benny Southstreet', James Carter as 'Big Jule' and Bill Paterson as 'Harry the Horse'. The original castalso included Imelda Staunton as Hot Box Girl 'Mimi'. Directed by Richard Eyre with musical staging by David Toguri, sets by John Gunter, costumes by Sue Blane, lighting by David Hersey and sound by Julian Beech. The assistant director was Antonia Bird.
The orignal West End cast at the Prince of Wales Theatre featured Clarke Peters as 'Sky Masterson', Betsy Brantley as 'Miss Sarah Brown', Norman Rossington as 'Nathan Detroit' and Lulu as 'Miss Adelaide' with David Healy as 'Nicely-Nicely Johnson', Philip O'Brien as 'Lieutenant Brannigan', Olga Lowe as 'General Matilda B Cartwright', John Warner as 'Arvide Abernathy', Mark Hadfield as 'Benny Southstreet', Anthony Pedly as 'Big Jule' and Andrew Robertson as 'Harry the Horse'. The West End transfer was directed by Antonia Bird, based on the original direction by Richard Eyre.
Director Richard Eyre expained how he came to direct this production at the National Theatre: "I came to Guys and Dolls through my father's overcoat. A loudish belted check coat with giant shoulders, it was called Big Nig. 'Why,' I asked my father, at the age of 12, 'is your over-coat called Big Nig?' 'Read more than somewhat and you'll find out.' I had already read more than somewhat, in fact my eyes ached from reading by torchlight under the bedcovers. 'More Than Somewhat!' he growled, 'by Damon Runyon!' So I read Damon Runyon and I understood. Big Nig was a crapshooter and Damon Runyon was a magical writer.
"About the same time (1955) the film of Guys and Dolls came out, a film based, according to the feed box noise, on the stories of Damon Runyon. I worshipped Brando, I adored Jean Simmons, I was cool to Sinatra, and I was entranced by the songs, and the dialogue - some of which I could even recognize from Runyon. In the subsequent years I came to know the original Broadway cast recording well, and had a nodding acquaintance with the script. While I was at Nottingham Playhouse I would occasionally ponder the notion of doing the show and then, daunted by the demands of the music and script, re-ponder. I never saw a stage version until my own.
"Laurence Olivier planned to do Guys and Dolls at the National in 1970. It was cast - Olivier as Nathan, Geraldine McEwan as Adelaide, Edward Woodward as Sky and Louise Purnell as Sarah - and dance rehearsals had begun. Sadly Olivier's illness nipped the production in the bud. Olivier always credited Kenneth Tynan with initiating the idea of doing Guys and Dolls, and my own adult enthusiasm for the show owes not a little to Tynan's advocacy. 'The second best American play' is how he described it (honours for the first going to Death of a Salesman).
"In the middle of 1981, having been wooed by Peter Hall for some time, I agreed to join the National Theatre as an Associate Director. I had no very clear programme of plays but my first production was to be in the Olivier Theatre. Peter Hall was clearly apprehensive that I would be burning with a passion to direct a minor Ostrovsky, or exhume a Belgian masterpiece. 'Could you think,' he asked plaintively, 'of doing a major popular classic...?' A total void ensued only to be filled, on a visit to a record shop specializing in Broadway show albums and Ennio Morricone film scores, by seeing the title Guys and Dolls on a record sleeve. That's it, I thought. In spite of the fact that I was, I discovered, the latest in a long line of claimants to direct it at the National. Peter Hall was enthusiastic. In early October 1981 it was agreed. Guys and Dolls to rehearse beginning of January - three months to cast, design, plan..."
London Revival (National Theatre) - 1996
Previewed 9 December 1996, Opened 17 December 1996, Closed 29 March 1997 at the NT Olivier Theatre
Returned 2 July 1997, Closed 22 November 1997 at the NT Olivier Theatre
Presented by the National Theatre - a re-staged and re-cast version of the 1982 production. The original cast for this 1996 revival featured Clarke Peters as 'Sky Masterson', Joanna Riding as 'Miss Sarah Brown', Henry Goodman as 'Nathan Detroit' and Imelda Staunton as 'Miss Adelaide' with Clive Rowe as 'Nicely-Nicely Johnson', Colin Stinton as 'Lieutenant Brannigan', Sharon D Clarke as 'General Matilda B Cartwright', John Normington as 'Arvide Abernathy', Wayne Cater as 'Benny Southstreet', Stanley Townsend as 'Big Jule' and Steven Speirs as 'Harry the Horse'. Directed by Richard Eyre with musical staging David Toguri, sets by John Gunter, costumes by Sue Blane, lighting by David Hersey and sound by Paul Groothuis.
2nd West End Revival (Piccadilly Theatre) - 2005
Previewed 19 May 2005, Opened 1 June 2005, Closed 14 April 2007 at the Piccadilly Theatre
Presented by 'The Donmar Warehouse in the West End'. The original cast featured Ewan McGregor as 'Sky Masterson', Jenna Russell as 'Miss Sarah Brown', Douglas Hodge as 'Nathan Detroit' and Jane Krakowski as 'Miss Adelaide' with Martyn Ellis as 'Nicely-Nicely Johnson', Patrick Brennan as 'Lieutenant Brannigan', Gaye Brown as 'General Matilda B Cartwright', Niall Buggy as 'Arvide Abernathy', Cory English as 'Benny Southstreet', Sevan Stephen as 'Big Jule' and Norman Bowman as 'Harry the Horse'. The original cast also included Summer Strallen as Hot Box Girl 'Missouri Martin'. Directed by Michael Grandage with choreography by Rob Ashford, designs by Christopher Oram, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Terry Jardine and Chris Full.
"You could complain that musicals are an excuse for a thin boy-meets-girl plot strung out with formulaic numbers, and there is plenty in the West End's past to fit that bill. Guys and Dolls, the foot-tapping adaptation of Damon Runyon's stories of Broadway in the Thirties, is the antidote. It's the story of Nathan Detroit, an inept gangster who has run an illegal crap game since he was a juvenile delinquent, but has run out of venues. To raise the cash to hold the night's game he has a wager with ladies' man Sky Masterson - he's called Sky because he bets higher than anyone - that he can't take Salvation Army girl Sarah Brown on a date to Havana. Meanwhile, Nathan's long-suffering fiancee Miss Adelaide is trying to pester him into marriage - between engagements as a stripper. The plot twists like a tornado and this fast-moving comedy with its authentic feel of the underbelly of 'Noo Yoik' would make a great play in its own right. The magic comes from Frank Loesser's music and lyrics - great songs like Luck Be A Lady and Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat, where every wisecracking line brings a new joke. There was a superb production at the National Theatre in the Eighties, which was revived in the Nineties, and this one on the much smaller stage of the Piccadilly Theatre can never have the same oomph. There isn't room for showy sets so director Michael Grandage has gone for atmosphere more than spectacle, so you really could be in the Manhattan sewer where Nathan's game finally takes place." The Daily Express
"I don't doubt that McGregor is a great film actor, but he is most certainly not a great stage actor. He can sing, he can dance and he can act, but, perspiring profusely on stage at the Piccadilly Theatre in Guys and Dolls, he can do none of them in a way that is remarkable or in the way that you would expect of the star of the show... The audience applauded McGregor's songs but it was noticeable as the evening wore on that the applause for the less well-known members of the cast grew as the applause for the nominal star diminished... It was his misfortune, too, to be performing alongside an uncommonly accomplished supporting cast. Douglas Hodge as Nathan Detroit and Jane Krakowski as Miss Adelaide did such a good job in the sub-plot as two wise-cracking lovers drawing near, after 14 years, to the idea of marriage that they threatened at times to submerge the main plot. Martyn Ellis as Nicely Nicely Johnson and Niall Buggy as Arvide Abernathy also proved to be ruthless scene-stealers... It would be churlish not to concede that Guys and Dolls makes for a perfectly convivial night out, but that's a tribute to the supporting cast, Frank Loesser's music and lyrics and the pacy direction of Michael Grandage rather than to the Invisible Man in the central role." The Sunday Telegraph
"Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows' adaptation of Damon Runyon's Broadway fables about a charmed criminal underworld couldn't be wittier, and Frank Loesser's music and lyrics are a sequence of surefire hits which never fail to bowl you over. But Grandage's production is a bit lacklustre, dowdy even, in Christopher Oram's design... I can see what Grandage is up to. He's out to strip this wild, escapist fantasy of its romance and reveal it as something more realistic. Which surely misses the point of a fairytale love story between a no-good gangster and a goody-goody God-squadder. While he succeeds in reminding us that the book is so good it would work as a play even without the fabulous score, he overdoes the temperance... Twice, Rob Ashford's sizzling choreography brings the house down." The Mail on Sunday
Guys and Dolls in London at the Piccadilly Theatre previewed from 19 May 2005, opened on 1 June 2005 and closed on 14 April 2007
3rd West End Revival (Savoy Theatre / Phoenix Theatre) - 2016
Previewed 10 December 2015, Opened 6 January 2016, Closed 12 March 2016 at the Savoy Theatre
Transferred 19 March 2016, Closed 21 August 2016 at the Phoenix Theatre
A transfer from the Chichester Festival Theatre. The original West End cast at the Savoy Theatre featured Jamie Parker as 'Sky Masterson', Siubhan Harrison as 'Miss Sarah Brown', David Haig as 'Nathan Detroit' and Sophie Thompson as 'Miss Adelaide' with Gavin Spokes as 'Nicely-Nicely Johnson', William Oxborrow as 'Lieutenant Brannigan', Lorna Gale as 'General Matilda B Cartwright', Neil McCaul as 'Arvide Abernathy', Ian Hughes as 'Benny Southstreet', Nic Greenshields as 'Big Jule' and Cornelius Clarke as 'Harry the Horse'. Directed by Gordon Greenberg with choreography by Andrew Wright and Carlos Acosta, designs by Peter McKintosh, lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Paul Groothuis.
When this production opened at the Savoy Theatre in January 2016, prior to transferring to the Phoenix Theatre, Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail highlighted that, in "this blistering production... with inventive choreography and extensive use of dry ice and blue lighting, there is no shortage of spectacle." Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard described how "Gordon Greenberg’s revival looks gorgeous, sounds timeless and is alert to every opportunity for humour... it's energetic and at times genuinely magical." Michael Billington in The Guardian hailed it as being an "expert revival." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph commented that, although "the new year may have started in a welter of lousy weather... one undimmed musical masterpiece bequeathed to us by Broadway giant Frank Loesser is lighting up the West End like a heaven-sent shaft of summer sun... the 26-strong ensemble throw everything they've got at this - energy, gusto, devotion." Ann Treneman The Times extolled how "this production is bursting with that most American of words — pizzazz... the dancing is extraordinary and, at times, nothing short of spectacular." Neil Norman in The Daily Express said that, "making its West End transfer from Chichester Festival Theatre, Gordon Greenberg's production retains much of its fizz and energy in spite of extensive cast changes and shoe-horning the set into a traditional proscenium arch stage." Sarah Hemming in The Financial Times wrote that "Gordon Greenberg's revival is irresistible... this is a warm-hearted, effervescent show, sprinkled with scintillating choreography from Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright." Paul Taylor in The Independent praised this "exhilarating Chichester Festival Theatre production... the dodgy dice-rollers in Gordon Greenberg's snappy, fast-paced production are a constant source of delight" in "this joyous revival."
"Surely the most insanely pleasurable of musicals, Frank Loesser's 1950 masterwork transfers from Chichester with its throng of scoundrels, showgirls, high-rolling gamblers and holy-rolling Salvationists. The book is pure jokes, the songs are belter after belter. Gordon Greenberg's lightweight but buoyant production features limber choreography from Andrew Wright and Carlos Acosta, and plays out like Broadway street theatre before a colourful fan of vintage ads." The Sunday Times
"The 1940s-set story of a group of New York ne'er do wells clashing with a troupe of missionaries - intent on saving their reluctant souls from their happy life of sin - has captivated audiences for generations. And this production will win more hearts. A vibrant explosion of energy, it captures all the colour of Damon Runyan's stories while adding polished choreography... With numbers like Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat and Luck Be a Lady Tonight from an ensemble cast who light up the stage, it's the sort of theatre you thought they didn't make any more." The Sunday Mirror
"In Gordon Greenberg's pitch perfect production of Frank Loesser's 1950 musical, populated by New York hustlers, gamblers and their molls, Sophie Thompson plays past-her-prime burlesque dancer Miss Adelaide, one of the best loved and most lovelorn characters in musical theatre. And makes it utterly hers. It's a performance delivered with such command and comic tragedy it overshadows the central love story between Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown, both beautifully played by Jamie Parker and Siubhan Harrison. Apart from a barnstorming Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat - surely the most ecstatic musical moment in London - the night belongs to Thompson. She's this wonderful show's beating, if continually broken, heart." The London Metro
This production was originally staged at the Chichester Festival Theatre in August/September 2014. The original 2015 London transfer cast for this staging featured Sophie Thompson as 'Miss Adelaide' and Jamie Parker as 'Sky Masterson' who both reprised their roles from Chichester. Sophie Thompson's West End stage credits include playing 'Tess' in Joanna Murray-Smith's play The Female Of The Species at the Vaudeville Theatre in 2008 and the roles of 'Bev/Kathy' in Bruce Norris' play Clybourne Park at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2011. Jamie Parker's West End credits include the role of 'Mike Connor' in Maria Friedman's revival of Cole Porter's musical High Society at the Old Vic Theatre in 2015 and the role of 'Guildenstern' in Trevor Nunn's revival of Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Haymarket Theatre in 2011.
Guys and Dolls in London at the Savoy Theatre previewed from 10 December 2015, opened on 6 January 2016 and closed on 12 March 2016, transferred to the nearby Phoenix Theatre from 19 March 2016 and closed on 21 August 2016