(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 1/7.)
It seems fitting that the Chichester production of Guys and Dolls (1950) should follow Gypsy (1959) at this address. Not only do these two fabulous shows bookend a great decade for the musical, but they prove that the genre is at its best when the songs and the dance routines grow out of a strong book.
Watching Gordon Greenberg’s expert revival, I was reminded yet again that this is the wittiest of American musicals. It derives, of course, from Damon Runyon’s stories about the peculiarly chivalric Broadway underworld and one particular fable about a Bible-quoting gambler who ends up dating a Salvation Army girl with missionary zeal. Runyon’s wit is not only encapsulated but even magnified in the book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.