Guys and Dolls at The Alex review

The gambling, smoke filled streets of New York, was brought to Birmingham’s Alexandra Theatre by the amazing tale of Guys and Dolls. And to my elation we were invited along to see it, being welcomed with a lovely drinks reception to settle us into a wonderful night of musical storytelling.

The staff were so unbelievably welcoming at the theatre and made me feel very VIP, treating us complementary refreshments and even ice cream at the interval.

Once seated, the 1920/1930’s gangster era played out before our very eyes, with extremely well executed New Yorker accents, which I can tell you on attempt by me and my friend, proved that it’s not as easy as saying “cwoffee” and even that was a struggle for us!

Never mind the fact that the character, aptly named ‘Harry The Horse’ played by Phil Saunders, managed to pull this off with a very funny and convincing horse impression, it had many of us laughing and I am sure it became even stronger as the show went on.

The set was perfectly suited to the years it was depicting. Mimicking the decade with brands, actors and even sweets from that time, all displayed as billboards and advertisements in the busy big city.

We had a visual overload of events to open the show, displaying the chaotic energy of the paved jungle and the diverse groups of people bustling around each other. With brief integrations that made me smile from the get go.

We had a visual overload of events to open the show, displaying the chaotic energy of the paved jungle and the diverse groups of people bustling around each other. With brief integrations that made me smile from the get go.

From the Texan tourists getting pick pocketed by the shady watch seller, who’s shop is the inside of his trench coat. To the homeless lady that gave us funny one liners while she takes several swigs from a bottle of alcohol and the missionaries spreading the good lords name and clearing out the streets by doing so.

Then there were the betters and bookies that kept the audience entertained, with their eccentric and sometimes thug like behaviour. Causing a mischief in the sleepy hours of 4am with their Crap Game, that seems to pull in all the luck chasers and gamblers, while causing a nuisance for the missionaries and police. Poor LT Brannigan, played by Peter Goldsmith, he can never quite catch those gambling goons and if it all wasn’t so funny watching him try, you’d almost feel sorry for him.

My favourite duo Nicely Nicely Johnson and Benny Southgate, brought to life by Alex Broadfield and Scott Hurley, were part of the dice rolling bunch and they had the stage filled with laddish behaviour and silly hilarity. I really enjoyed their friendship and the part they had in overall show, I always laughed and was left with a grin on my face when they entered the scene.

Sarah Brown played by Annabel Pilcher, led the marches and did the rallying for the group of Christians with a cause to help the souls of New York’s sinners. With one sinner in particular taking up most of her charitable time.

The actress had a striking voice that captured the attention of the room and had applause erupting from the crowd the moment the space fell silent from her performance. The innocence and kindness of Sarah Brown was played out effortlessly, especially when around the contrasting personalities of the other characters.

Ones like Sky Masterton, portrayed by James Gordanifar, the charming lucky roller who never welshes on a bet. He oozes confidence and is a well known ladies man who doesn’t entertain the idea of settling down into marital bliss. This is tested with a bet from Nathan Detroit, played by Pat Pryce, who is in desperate need for a venue to hold his Crap Game and $1000 to secure it.

The two men are very comical and seemed to hold the attention of the audience whenever either were on stage.

Many times the scene was taken to the local club hangout called ‘Hot Box’. Where one of my favourite characters Miss Adelaide, played by Jo Smith, the long term fiancé of Nathan Detroit works. Dancing and singing alongside her fellow Hot Box girls, leaving everyone delighted by their humour and stage presence. I love her high-pitched, girly New York accent and erratic but funny personality.

Relationships between men and women was very much so the main focus of the production, played out with back and forth comedic banter between the characters. All the friendships and romances had that element of quick witted responses and humours behaviour along with the amazing musical performances and gradual character developments, which was a pleasure to watch.

I don’t want to give too much away and ruin Guys and Dolls for the rest of you, although it is a very well known musical, I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone. These talented performers transport you to another time and romance you with their stories.

Words and Photos by Wallis Brown for Grapevine Birmingham (