The solitary saxophone that opens the touring revival of the ultimate Broadway musical may be deceptive in its quietude, but it's also the perfect neon-lit mood-setter for everything that follows. Originating at Chichester Festival Theatre, Gordon Greenberg's production taps into the full picaresque largesse of Damon Runyan's role-call of mobsters, showgirls, saints and sinners who first jumped from the page and were made flesh onstage by Frank Loesser, Joe Swerling and Abe Burrows in 1950 before being immortalised on film five years later.
Beneath the arched curvature of billboards that give Peter McKintosh's otherwise wide-open set the feel of the sort of after-hours big city dive bars where a glorious mess of popular culture is born, the largely bare stage bursts into raucous life with cartoon glee. Maxwell Caulfield's commitment-phobic Nathan, Richard Fleeshman's uber-cool Sky and the gang sport suits that seem to sharpen under the lights as Miss Adelaide and her Debutantes' skirts billow in libidinous abandon beside them.
The duel love stories between Nathan and Louise Dearman's terminally engaged Adelaide, plus that between Sky and Anna O'Byrne's hot salvationist Sarah, are captured with blousy swagger. Beyond the thrust of such dalliances, Andrew Wright and Carlos Acosta's frantic dance routines make for an expressionistic technicolour dreamscape wrapped up in a big band Brechtian heart that drives things.
This is particularly the case when Sky whisks Sarah off to Havana for a bet, only for his ultimate evocation of street-smart machismo to be tamed by a purity corrupted by latin fire. In a show where gambling and godliness are two sides of the same coin, everyone's a winner, so take a chance.
The Herald, April 15th 2016