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How ‘Guys and Dolls’ Became a Popular West End Musical

Ever wanted to join Nathan Detroit’s famous floating shit game, or watch Adelaide perform at his club, or follow Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown on their date in Havana? Well, you will soon be able to do it at bridge theater. In 2023, the London location is transformed into a guys and dolls immersive experience, immersing you in the world of the beloved musical – which will be brought to life in a completely new way.

The production is helmed by Bridge boss Nicholas Hytner, whose equally immersive Shakespeare production Dream of a summer night was a great success in the theatre. He also turned out to be a fan of musicals: he directed Miss Saigon in the West End and on Broadway, and an acclaimed revival of Carousel while directing the National Theatre.

So what is the lasting appeal of guys and dolls, and what can we expect from this thrilling new immersive production? Read on for our definitive guide to guys and dolls.

Book guys and dolls London theater tickets.

Welcome to the world of Runyon

We have a man to thank for the origins of guy and dolls: journalist and fiction writer Damon Runyon. He comes from a long line of journalists and he carried on the family tradition with his colorful tales of baseball and boxing (he dubbed James J Braddock “the man from Cinderella”), as well as players, hustlers and gangsters, especially the sleazy characters. which dominated New York City during the Prohibition era.

Damon Runyon - 750 - LT

Runyon also became a renowned short-story writer, creating his own distinctive style of language and dialogue – a colorful slang that became known as Runyonesque. His work is full of evocative names, like Benny Southstreet, Good Time Charley, Harry the Horse and The Seldom Seen Kid, while the women are slinky dolls and tough-talking chicks.

Runyon’s stories were dramatized in 1949 in a radio program called The Damon Runyon Theater (which later aired on CBS as a TV series as well), and they became the basis for many movies – including the Oscar-nominated 1933 picture lady for a daythe 1934 Shirley Temple-starring Little Miss Marker, Lemon drop child in which Bob Hope introduced the Christmas song “Silver Bells” and the 1942 film The main street with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball.

guys and dolls was born

A pair of Runyon short stories – Arterial pressure and The Romance of Miss Sarah Brown – inspired the guys and dolls musical. It essentially follows the woes of two romantic partnerships: Nathan Detroit, who runs an illegal shit game, and his longtime fiancée and nightclub singer Adelaide; and legendary gambler Sky Masterson, who bets Nathan that he can charm stern Sergeant Sarah Brown of the Save-a-Soul mission into having dinner with him.

Sky gets Sarah to agree to a date (for which he takes her to Havana) in exchange for providing sinners for a revival meeting – without their presence the mission will close. However, Sarah is furious when she discovers Nathan is using the mission to run his shitty game, assuming Sky tricked her. Sky bets everything to get the sinners he promised her, pleading for luck to be a woman, and the two women end up comparing notes and decide to bet on their respective men.

The musical adaptation was the bright idea of ​​producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin; Composer and lyricist Frank Loesser was commissioned to stage Runyon’s New York underworld. Jo Swerling produced the first version of the book, but it was rewritten by Abe Burrows, who did a much better job of integrating the songs into the story.

Sam Levene - 750 - LT

By then, veteran actor Sam Levene had signed on to play Nathan Detroit. He had very limited singing ability, so the team worked around that, giving Nathan just one song: his duet with Adelaide, “Sue Me.”

Similarly, Miss Adelaide was designed around Vivian Blaine, who was originally envisioned for Sarah Brown. They were joined by Robert Alda as Sky and Isabel Bigley as Sarah. The 1950 musical was an instant hit, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. He transferred to the West End in 1953 and was also well received.

guys and dolls lives on

guys and dolls remains a popular musical, with many big names appearing in revivals. Richard Eyre put together an impressive Olivier Award-winning version at the National Theater in 1982 with a striking neon-lit design and a cast including Bob Hoskins, Julia McKenzie, Ian Charleson and Julie Covington.

Imelda Staunton - 750 - LT

The National Theater then produced another successful revival in 1996 starring Henry Goodman, Imelda StauntonClarke Peters, Joanna Riding and Clive Rowe.

In 1992, Jerry Zaks won plaudits for his Broadway revival, directed by Nathan Lane, Peter Gallagher, Faith Prince and Josie de Guzman, and Des McAnuff directed another New York production in 2009 with Lauren Graham debuting in Broadway – although the latter got more of a mixed response from critics.

Concerts included a Carnegie Hall run in 2014 with Nathan Lane, Megan MullallyPatrick Wilson and Sierra Boggess, and a concert at the Kennedy Center in 2022 with Steven Pasquale, Phillipa Soo, James Monroe Iglehart and Jessie Mueller.

The UK’s love affair with the series also continued: Michael Grandage helmed a West End version in 2005 with Ewan McGregor, Jenna RussellJane Krakowski and Douglas Hodge (and alternates including Patrick Swayze and Sarah Lancashire).

Guys and Dolls 2015 - 750 - LT

guy and dolls returned in 2015 to Chichester, then toured the UK and had another West End tour, first with David Haig, Sophie Thompson and Jamie Parker, then Oliver Tompsett, Richard Kind and Rebel Wilson.

Of course, there was also the great 1955 Hollywood film adaptation, featuring the somewhat incongruous quartet of Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine. Three new songs were added, including “Adelaide” for Sinatra, and the film received general acclaim, winning two Golden Globes and earning four Academy Award nominations.

guys and dolls at the Pont Theater

Now, we’ll see the musical reborn once again in 2023 at London’s bustling theatre. We know that you will be able to buy tickets seated or standing, as with previous Nicholas Hytner Bridge productions of Julius Caesar and Dream of a summer night; permanent tickets will put you right in the action.

Bunny Christie’s design will evoke these familiars guys and dolls locations – the streets of Manhattan, the underground gambling circles and nightclubs, the mission room and the bustling bar of Havana. In addition, you will be able to hear all these wonderful songs up close: “Luck Be A Lady”, “If I Were A Bell”, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”, “Adelaide’s Lament”, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” and more.

It’s actually the first musical to be staged at the Bridge, although Hytner has achieved some big hits in the past, like Miss Saigon, as well as the staging of operas. It will be incredibly exciting to see what he does with it. guys and dolls – be sure to book your tickets so you can experience it all!

Photo credits: Damon Runyon, Sam Levene and Viviane Blaine in Guys and Dolls, Imelda Staunton in Guys and Dolls, Guys and Dolls in the West End in 2015 (Photo courtesy of Colorado Historical Society, courtesy from Wikimedia Commons, photo by John Haynes, photo courtesy of the production)