Ovation Theatres



A musical fable of Broadway based on a story and characters of Damon Runyon
Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows

Presented by arrangement with JOSEF WEINBERGER LIMITED, London on behalf of MUSIC THEATRE INTERNATIONAL of NEW YORK

Off West End Awards 2012 Nominations for Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls played Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Friday 16th December 2011 – Sunday 29th January 2012


Amy-BaileyFor Ovation: Linda in Woody Allen’s Play it Again Sam.

A native Texan, Amy moved to NYC at 16 to dance with The Joffery Ballet and then to London at 18 to dance with London City Ballet and London Ballet Theatre. In 2007 she understudied Ulla in the original cast of The Producers (UK Tour) and in 2008 played Laurie in Oklahoma! (Kilworth House). Later that year Amy filmed Nine at Shepperton Studios and Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland. In 2009, she performed alongside Beyonce and Hugh Jackman, under Baz Luhmann’s direction for the 81st Oscars. Amy has featured in several films and TV shows including: Discovery Channel’s Alive; Syfy Network’s Legend Of Cain; the viral hit A Girl Walks Into A Bar;and Chiara Skura; (for Marios Schwab – Italian Vogue). She is also the face of Blackberry Torch 2011 campaign and performs regularly with several comedy impro troupes in London. www.amybailey.net

Paul-BullionPaul was a recipient of the BBC Musical Theatre Bursary which helped him complete his training at Arts Educational School London.

Earlier this year he completed the original UK Tour of Spamalot!

Connor-DowlingConnor recently arrived here from Australia to further his performing career. He is a multi-skilled artist whose professional experience includes ballet, contemporary dance, choreography, musical theatre, film, singing, song-writing and cabaret.

Having been selected to perform with Sydney Dance Company, Expressions Dance Company, The Queensland Ballet, The Australian Ballet and West Australia Ballet, he has toured throughout Australia, The United Kingdom, Europe, China, Thailand, North America and New Zealand. As well as performing featured dance, singing and acting roles as a freelance artist.

Major choreographic commissions include: Pierrot Lunaire with The Australia Ensemble (2011); and Dreamt I Was a Real Boy at The Sydney Opera House for Spring Dance Festival (2009).

Matthew-John-GregoryMatthew trained at The Elliott-Clarke Theatre School and Doreen Bird College of Performing Arts

Theatre credits include: In Concert/H20 (Costa Fortuna); All You Need Is Love (UK Tour); Twist and Shout (Niagara Falls, Canada); and Through The Door (Trafalgar Studios, London).

Composing credit: Between The Lines (Union Theatre, London).

James-KermackFor Ovation: Dick in Woody Allen’s Play it Again Sam.

Other theatre credits include: George in Of Mice and Men (National Tour); John Proctor in The Crucible (Wateryard); The Ashes (Iron Bark/ Latitude Festival); Manor (Soho Theatre Studio & Tristan Bates); 1 in 5 (Young Vic & Hampstead Theatre); Suburbia (Pentameters); Old Vic New Voices 24 hour plays (Old Vic); Pygmalion (Old Vic-directed by Sir Peter Hall); Damaged (Liverpool Everyman); Kind Hearts and Coronets (National Tour); Newsrevue (Canal Café); Romeo & Juliet (Mustard Productions); Playlist (Arcola Theatre); A Slice of Saturday Night (C Venue, Edinburgh); and For Once I Was (Old Vic – OVNV US/UK Exchange).

Film/Television credits include: feature film The Lost for Thamesgate Films (release date winter 2012); music video for Young Rebel Sets single Lions Mouth; documentary Extreme Theatre (Artsworld/ BBC); Award nominated shorts Memory Loss (Nothin or Double Films); Rojin (Poisson Rouge); and The Kingdom and the Beast (Rose Cottage Films); Zack Zubar (pilot – Cartoon Network) and various sketches for Hat Trick Productions.

James is now the face of the armed forces campaign Don’t Bottle it Up as seen on the BBC.

Anthony-McgillA new arrival to the UK, Tony was thrilled to be cast in this production during his first week in London. One of Australia’s busiest actor/musicians his onstage credits include: Annie; 42nd Street; The Secret Garden; Jacques Brel is Alive and Well; Closer than Ever; and Much Ado About Nothing. Tony was also assistant conductor for the Australian productions of Anything Goes; Phantom of the Opera; and Sunset Boulevard. He has been Musical Director/Vocal Coach for many performers including Marina Prior, Hugh Jackman, Geoffrey Rush and Jason Donovan.

A founding member of the Australian comedy/vocal group, Combo Fiasco, Tony toured extensively with them for twelve years. Popular on the New York cabaret scene Combo Fiasco were celebrated on numerous radio and television shows – including the NBC Today Show. The trio also performed at many international arts festivals and recorded three CDs. From 2006 to 2011 Tony was Head of Musical Theatre at Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore, nurturing an international mix of students onto the stages of the UK and the Asian-Pacific region.

Leanne-Tain-MarshallLeanne started performing aged three and went on to train at the Dupont Dance and stage school in Leicestershire and whilst attending Dupont was fortunate enough to be a junior and senior associate with the Royal ballet.

She worked as a dancer/singer for many years touring and travelling the world, as well as being a Dance captain for Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruise lines.

Leanne went on to re-train in singing and acting at the London School of Musical Theatre and upon graduating appeared in Sleeping Beauty (Richmond Theatre) with Anita Dobson. She has appeared in several incarnations of A Touch of West End with the likes of Earl Carpenter, Rebecca Caine and David Thaxton.

Dave-MuscatComing from the Australian production of Billy Elliot the Musical where he was ensemble & cover for two roles, David is happy to be performing in Ovation’s production of Guys & Dolls.

In Australia, David worked on a variety of projects: in the award winning film Numurkah (directed by Ryan Coonan); with comedy group The Members (several Melbourne International Comedy Festivals); TV Commercials; Live Bands; and the lead role in Love in the Time of Milkbars playing Billy (Melbourne Fringe Festival).

Other musical credits include: Orin in Little Shop of Horrors; Action in West Side Story; Cosmo Brown in Singin’ in the Rain; Mike in A Chorus Line; Munkustrap in Cats (all in Australia).

David comes from a background of dance, vocal and acting training and has been fortunate enough to put those skills to work since 1996.

Patrick-RufeyPatrick trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. As a child actor he featured as young Cratchet in the RSC production of A Christmas Carol and Tiny Tim in the national tour of Scrooge with Anthony Newley. Having recently re-entered the acting profession, this is Patrick’s first show with Ovation.

Jamie-SampsonJamie studied at The Sylvia Young Theatre School, Master’s Performing Arts College in Essex and Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts where he won the Dame Judi Dench Scholarship.

Television credits include: Adam Loughran on the series of Red Cap (BBC); Brian Liddle in The Courtroom (Mersey TV); Josh in the Budweiser Bucks campaigns; and various other commercials. In 2005 Jamie went on to play Eddie and understudied Sky in Mamma Mia! (International Tour). In 2006 he joined the West End cast of Guys and Dolls (Piccadilly Theatre); and in 2007 helped create the original cast of Rent Remixed (Duke Of York). Jamie then moved to Los Angeles and worked on the hit Fox show Hell’s Kitchen before recording voiceovers for Habbo Hotel and filming a commercial for Siemens. Jamie has just returned to the UK and has since filmed a Christmas commercial for Aldi.

Jos-SlovickFor Ovation: Nicky Sullivan/Ritchie Valens in Buddy the Buddy Holly Story.

Other theatre credits: Dickon in The Secret Garden (Edinburgh & Toronto); Homer McAuley in The Human Comedy (The Young Vic & Watford Palace Theatre); Matt in Love Story (Chichester Festival Theatre); Georg in Spring Awakening (Novello & Lyric Hammersmith).

Concerts: Robbie (the lead) in Stiles & Drewe’s new musical Soho Cinders.

Fiilm credits: The Addicted. Workshops: X-The Musical; and The Lost Boys.

Soundtracks: Soho Cinders.

Hayley-Ellen-ScotHayley trained at Laine Theatre Arts graduating with a National Diploma in Musical Theatre.

Theatre credits include: Ensemble, understudy and played Sharpay Evans in the original London company of Disney’s High School Musical (Hammersmith Apollo); ensemble/dance captain in Cinderella (Nottingham Theatre Royal); Thursford Christmas Spectacular; High School Rocks (UK Tour); The Boy Friend (Her Majesty’s Theatre); Future Dreams (The Savoy Theatre); Snow White (Gordon Craig Theatre): Dick Whittington (Oxford Playhouse); Beauty And The Beast (Civic Theatre, Darlington); Believe in Yourself; Seeing Tomorrow and Name of the Game (Epsom Playhouse).

Additional credits include: dancing in the Carling Cup Final with Sky Sports 1 (Wembley Stadium); and Variety Club Showbusiness Awards (Grosvenor House Hotel).

Rebecca-SutherlandRebecca has created many roles for theatre including Hannah in Imagine This (Theatre Royal, Plymouth and New London Theatre); Young Dee in Doctor Dee for Manchester International Festival co-created by Damon Albarn and Rufus Norris; Juana la Puta in The Eternal Damnation to Sancho and Sanches by Javier de Frutos (Sadlers Wells and International tour); original featured performer in Shoes (Sadlers Wells).

Other theatre credits include: Ellen & understudy Ado Annie in John Doyle’s Oklahoma (Chichester Festival Theatre); Frenchie in Cabaret (Lyric Theatre); Ensemble & understudy Flossie in On the Town (London Coliseum); Maria in Murderous Instincts (Savoy Theatre); Mabel Ogden in Witches of Eastwick (Australia); Maria in Saturday Night Fever (UK Tour); Emma in Song and Dance (New Zealand); Mona in Chicago (New Zealand); Mandy in Boogie Nights (UK Tour); Rumpleteaser / Demeter / Bombalurina in Cats (Australia); Jemima / Victoria / Cassandra in Cats (Germany); Ensemble in Mack & Mabel (Australia); Swing in Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (South East Asia/New Zealand); Ensemble in 42nd Street (New Zealand).


Racky is the director and choreographer in residence at Upstairs at the Gatehouse (Best Theatrical Team, Fringe Report 2011). Recent Gatehouse credits include: A Slice of Saturday Night Best Choreographer finalist, Off West End Awards); London fringe premiere of The Drowsy Chaperone (Best Production nomination, What’s On Stage Awards; twelve nominations including Best Director, Off West End Awards); the critically acclaimed Into the Woods; Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (Best Entertainment nomination, Off West End Awards; Critics Choice, Time Out); The Young Ones; Side by Side by Sondheim; Starting Here Starting Now; Cole; Forever Plaid; The Wiz; Victoria Wood’s Talent; and The Hot Mikado (Critic’s Choice, The Guardian).

Other choreography credits include: Respect La Diva (and Associate Director, The Garrick, West End); Bernarda Alba (UK Premiere, The Union); The Lost Boys (Liverpool Playhouse workshop); Fresher (Edinburgh Festival; Most Promising New Musical, MTM Award); A Christmas Carol (The Kings Head; Best Production, London Festival Award); Aladdin (Qdos & JC Productions); The Boy Friend (Her Majesty’s); Crazy For You and Me and My Girl (London Palladium); A Tale of Two Cities (directed by Paul Nicholas); Marriage of Figaro (Shaw Theatre); La Traviata (Hampstead Garden Opera); Mac Bitch! (Perfect Pitch); Assassins (The Landor); and Sophie Tucker’s One Night Stand (Hackney Empire). She assisted Ray Cooney and Carole Todd on Stop Dreamin’ (Mill at Sonning), last year completed a stint as Resident Director on State Fair at Trafalgar Studios and recently choreographed the Guiness World Record for Largest Charleston Dance!

For Ovation: High Society (Upstairs at the Gatehouse; Off West End Awards nomination for Best Choreographer).

Lee is currently the resident choreographer of the London production of Billy Elliot the Musical where he was also the original dance captain on the show. In this capacity he has also assisted Peter Darling on the multi Tony Award winning Broadway production and in Australia for the Sydney and Melbourne productions. Lee has re-created and re-staged material from the show for the Olivier Awards, Blue Peter, Strictly Dance Fever, West End Live, The Alan Titchmarsh Show and most recently Tonight’s The Night. He has also been closely involved with Billy Youth Theatre for the last two years and has twice been a key player as part of the team in staging the gala event at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

Choreography includes: Come Clog Dancing (BBC4); Seduction (ATS Theatre); A Northern Odyssey by (Live Theatre); And The World Goes Around (Wyndhams Theatre); Eurovision (Picadilly Theatre 2009/10); A Chorus Line; Hair; West Side Story; An Evening of Stephen Sondheim; and Gypsy for the foundation degree course at Newcastle College.

Lee wrote the Foundation Degree in Musical Theatre for Newcastle College and is proud to be a course advisor. Lee is also thrilled to be an honorary vice-president of the Tyne Theatre and Opera House Trust.

David trained at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Musical Director credits: Tom Sawyer (Goldsmiths University); Hitler! The Musical (Edinburgh Fringe 2011). Assistant Musical Director: I Love You Because (Reprise Productions); Sweet Charity;and Just Beyond The Stars (Trinity Laban). Keys: Heaven Sent (Hidden Talent Productions); Cinderella (Bill Kenwright Ltd). Composer: Not So Far To Reach (Edinburgh Fringe 2011). David is an Associate Musical Director of Hidden Talent Productions and a presenter for MusicalTalk.

Joanna read Music at Durham University, before studying on the Musical Direction course at Mountview.

Whilst training she worked as MD on several productions including: Cabaret; and The Last Five Years, as Associate MD: The Drowsy Chaperone; and The Wild Party; and Merrily We Roll Along at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since graduating this August, she has worked as the Musical Director of News Revue (Canal Cafe); as Assistant MD on Bernarda Alba (Union Theatre). She also teaches at Stagecoach Kew and works as a pianist for the Advanced Performers Studio and The American Musical Theatre Academy.

For Ovation: Buried Child and The Drowsy Chaperone (both nominated for best set in the Off West End Awards).

Martin trained at Wimbledon School of Art. He has designed sets and costumes for over 30 theatre productions receiving three further OFFIE nominations for Burlesque (Jermyn Street Theatre); Ragtime; and Smokey Joe’s Café (Landor Theatre).

Other credits include: Four Nights in Knaresborough (Southwark Playhouse); John and Jen (Landor Theatre); Harvey (Cooma Theatre, Australia); Relax and The Kindness of Strangers (Warehouse Theatre Croydon); Three Minute Hero (Cock Tavern Theatre); A Streetcar Named Desire and Europe (Oxford Playhouse); Blowing Whistles (Sound Theatre and Warehouse Theatre Croydon); Skara Brae (White Bear Theatre); Yoroboshi (New Wimbledon Studio); Blasted (Old Fire Station Theatre, Oxford); Conversations After a Burial (Burton Taylor Theatre, Oxford); Dancing at Lughnasa and Hedda Garbler (Morley Studio Theatre).

Martin spent a year in Australia, where he worked with choreographers at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, designing and lighting performance spaces for contemporary choreographic works. Martin also works as a design assistant for: Isabella Bywater, Peter Davidson, Nicky Shaw and Lez Brotherston.

For Ovation: Play it Again Sam; Buried Child; The Drowsy Chaperone; High Society; Buddy; A Slice of Saturday Night; Forever Plaid; Talent; The Young Ones; Into the Woods; and A Tale of Two Cities.

Howard studied Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design. He won the 2011 Off West End Award for Best Lighting Design and was nominated for a Broadway World ‘Best Lighting Design’ award for Parade (Southwark Playhouse).

Other credits include: Four Nights in Knaresborough (Southwark Playhouse); State Fair (Trafalgar Studios); The Diary of Anne Frank; Calamity Jane (Upstairs at the Gatehouse); Cowardy Custard (UK Tour); Keeler (UK Tour); Noel and Gertie (Cockpit); The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Union); Santa Claus and the Christmas Adventure (Ambassadors); Educating Rita (English Theatre Frankfurt); European premieres of Bed and Sofa and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Me and Juliet (Finborough); Burlesque; Romeo and Juliet; The Importance of Being Earnest (Jermyn Street); Ragtime; The Hired Man; Tomorrow Morning; Smokey Joe’s Café; Bent (Landor); The Consultant (Theatre 503); Bollywood Cinderella; Uprising; People’s Romeo; Miranda (Tara Arts); Spring Awakening (Rose, Kingston); 1936 (Arcola and UK Tour); Sweet Smell of Success (Arts Ed). Please visit howardhudson.co.uk

Stephen was born in Edinburgh and trained at The Arts Educational Schools, London. Guys & Dolls marks Stephen’s professional assistant directorial debut. As a performer, Stephen can currently be seen in the West End production of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s Crazy For You. Stephen also teaches, directs and choreographs for a number of professional training institutions around the UK, including the RSAMD, LIPA, Motherwell College, The Dance School of Scotland and Manchester College. More information can be found at

For Ovation: High Society (Casting); Buried Child (Assistant Producer).

Other casting credits include: How The World Began (Arcola); S-27 (Finborough); I Luv Matt Johnson (short film).

As an assistant Ri has worked on many theatre and TV shows. For David Grindrod Associates: Shrek; Ghost; Wizard of Oz; Shoes; Love Never Dies (West End); Mamma Mia! (International Tour); for Marilyn Johnson Casting: Eternal Law (Kudos for ITV); and for BBC Casting: EastEnders; Holby City; and Doctors. She was also an assistant producer on The Boy Friend (Her Majesty’s Theatre, Showtime Challenge 48 Hour Musical for Eyebrow Productions).

Philippe trained at the London Studio Centre. Theatre credits: Gotta Sing Gotta Dance (UK Tour); White Christmas (The Lowry, Manchester); Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (UK Tour); We Will Rock You (Cologne, Germany); Starlight Express (UK Tour); Fame (The Aldwych); The Boyfriend (UK Tour); West Side Story, Hotstuff and On Your Toes all at The Leicester Haymarket; Saturday Night Fever (Cologne, Germany and UK Tour); The Pajama Game (Birmingham Rep, Toronto, and Victoria Palace London). Other credits: The Music of Dirty Dancing (Oslo, Norway); The Harry Hill Show (Channel 4); Choreographer: Snow White (White Rock, Hastings); Ast. Choreographer :Cinderella, (Victoria Theatre, Halifax).

For Ovation: as Stage Manager, Forever Plaid; as Assistant Stage Manager Into the Woods and Cooking with Elvis.

Frances has recently graduated from RADA where she studied Technical Theatre and Stage Management. During her course, Frances specialised in Stage Management and worked on a number of in-house RADA productions.

Other theatre credits include: As Stage manager: Burlesque (Jermyn Street Theatre); Call Me Madam (Upstairs at the Gatehouse); and News Revue (Canal Café).

This is Hannah’s first show at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

West End credits: Lend Me A Tenor (Gielgud Theatre); Sweet Charity (Theatre Royal Haymarket).

Other theatre credits: Burlesque (Jermyn Street Theatre); The Beekeeper (Blackeyed Theatre); Ragtime (Landor Theatre); Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night (GB Theatre), As You Like It (Rose Theatre, Kingston), Just So, Stiffed (Tabard Theatre); Gilbert is Dead (Hoxton Hall); Demi Monde, Richard III, Fool for Love, Romeo and Juliet, A Taste of Honey, Ajax (Love and Madness); Duet for One (Milton Keynes Theatre); The Time of Your Life (The Finborough Theatre); A Latesummer Night’s Dream (Mill Pond Media); Crazy for You (The Church Hill Theatre); The Wind in the Willows (Theatre Workshop); Dick McWhittington (The Brunton Theatre); Troilus and Cressida (The Kings Theatre, Edinburgh).

Film credits: Libertatia and Daniel and Tess (London Film School).

Hannah trained in Costume Design and Construction at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.

For Ovation: The Drowsy Chaperone.

Marj’s most recent productions include Top Girls (for Out of Joint touring); How The World Began and Goodbye Barcelona, both at the Arcola. Marj worked for many years as a voice teacher at Arts Ed and now teaches on the Music Theatre course at the Royal Academy of Music.

Musical Director / Keyboard – Joanna Cichonska
Reeds – Vicky Cowles / Neil Pinnock / Victoria Bell
Bass – Stuart Ness
Trumpet – Jack Bennington
Drums – Dave Jennings
Trombone – Zeb Tonkin



All you need to know is that this classsy production is pure five out of five stars, ten out of ten stuff. Upstairs At The Gatehouse theatre in Highgate Village is famed for the quality of its Christmas musicals but, for all the brilliance it has come up with in recent years, their current run of Guys and Dolls surely outdoes all of its past triumphs.

People may say that the source material – Damon Runyan’s delicious opposites-attract story of a lifetime gambler crossing paths with a Salvation Army sergeant struggling to tidy the streets of sinners – is hard to get wrong; that anybody with half a lung could sing Luck Be A Lady or Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat and have a good chance of getting toes tapping.

But this is West End quality on a stage just up the road and the imagination in the telling by director Racky Plews is supreme. We should count ourselves lucky there is a place like this two ticks from Pond Square.

The respect held for this playhouse in theatre world means they always command an experienced cast.

Jamie Sampson as chief gambler Sky Masterson connects with Amy Bailey as Sister Sarah like they’re dancing the rumba at the Palladium.

The combination is truly magical. But it’s not all about the leads. Chronic street dodger Nathan Detroit is a role that can be ruined if the wit of the character is overtaken by farce.

James Kermack avoids that pitfall. Rebecca Sutherland meanwhile threatens to steal the show as his long-suffering fiancée Miss Adelaide. Big eyes, big voice, you get lost in her lament.

There are so many reasons to recommend. Seriously, go see it.


Anyone hankering for a small but heart-swelling production of a great American musical at highly affordable prices should make a bee-line to this family-run venue in North London. Directed by Racky Plews, it could well be the first-ever Fringe production of Frank Loesser’s 1950 classic. Whether or not this information is entirely accurate, all I know is that I enjoyed Plews’ intimate, traverse staging considerably more than the West End revival headlined by Ewan McGregor in 2005.
When done with as much affectionate care and detailed invention as it receives here, Guys and Dolls seems just about the most perfect show. Plews and a 13-strong ensemble breathe fresh life into a book (by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows) based on some of Damon Runyon’s tall tales about various lovable rogues whose racy turf is the underbelly of midtown Manhattan. The script fuses cartoon gangsterism from a bygone era with comic romance embodied by two couples whose troubled love lives dovetail beautifully. The whole enterprise is wrapped up in a witty, hummable score by Loesser that remains an evergreen gift to performers and audiences alike.

I said there are 13 all-singing, all-dancing actors in Plews’s production but a New

Year’s Day injury meant I saw only 12. Such are the hazards of staging neat yet admirably expansive dance routines (devised by Lee Proud) in a confined space. In true showbiz spirit the remaining cast members have rallied to fill the gap. The result is a smoothly oiled ensemble performance with five-star aspirations, many of which it achieves.
Plews has picked her leading actors wisely. Jamie Sampson plays the high-rolling gambler Sky Masterson as a smart, cocky charmer.
Little wonder that, despite an initial resistance, Amy Bailey’s prim urban missionary Sarah Brown melts. This girl, it turns out, has fire in the belly.
There’s nothing secondary about the performances of James Kermack, cast as the marriage-shy crap game addict Nathan Detroit, or Rebecca Sutherland, whose utterly endearing turn as the psychosomatically flu-ridden nightclub performer Miss Adelaide is fuelled by a huge talent. All four leads are delightful, a quality that spreads like a welcome infection to the rest of the cast and then to anyone lucky enough to be in the audience.

Time Out ****Adelaide-&-Nathan

Users *****

The Fringe’s recent winning streak of musical adaptations continues into 2012 with this raucously fun version of the enduring 1950 Broadway hit by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows.

Director Racky Plews proves that less is more, eschewing the razzmatazz of other revivals to make a virtue of the Gatehouse’s smaller space. Traverse staging, tangled telephone cords, peeling posters and cheekily well-timed audience participation bring to heightened life the shabby streets of a Midtown Manhattan populated by wise-cracking gangsters, loveable con-artists and showgirls.

This is a ‘Guys and Dolls’ closely in tune with the Prohibition era of the short stories by Damon Runyon, on which the musical is based.

Jamie Sampson is a slick but serious-minded Sky Masterson, the gambler who falls for missionary Sarah Brown (Amy Bailey) after Nathan Detroit – desperate to raise money for a floating crap game – bets Masterson that he can’t get her to go to Cuba with him.

Bailey is hilarious when the pair reach Havana, downing cocktails and dancing with gleeful abandon as this buttoned-up believer cuts loose. Together, she and Sampson create a touching romance among the plot’s assorted hi-jinks.

Rebecca Sutherland steals the show as brassy, big-hearted Miss Adelaide, nightclub singer and Detroit’s long-suffering fiancée of 14 years. Lighting up the stage whenever she totters on to it, she wrings every drop of wit from the brilliant ‘Adelaide’s Lament’.

Inventive choreography and atmospheric lighting mean that tent-pole numbers ‘Luck Be a Lady’ and ‘Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat’ (sung with gusto by Patrick Rufey as Nicely Nicely Johnson) also grab your attention and don’t let go. This production is one gamble that has paid off dazzlingly.

Innovative staging and an exceptional cast lift popular musical to whole new level

Damon Runyon invented the richest set of characters in American literature. His guys are petty criminals, gamblers, always ,escaping the law and yet utterly loveable. This, show, based on Runyon’s short stories, has been described as the most perfect musical – without a single dud tune and it is everybody’s favourite – so well known that it is difficult to avoid singing along to Frank Loesser’s brilliant music and lyrics.
It has had many productions in the West End and at the National but this one is a superlative interpretation by Racky Plews with a magical cast and probably the most prestigious creative team in London. Lee Proud (resident choreographer on Billy Elliot) staged the wonderful High Society at the Gatehouse and his work here is equally innovative. The famous mission number Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat is excitingly staged.
The set by Martin Thomas, twice nominated for Gatehouse productions in the Off West End Awards, is a miracle of ingenuity. On a bare traverse acting area, he and Racky have managed to perform multiple set changes without the aid of black boxes or blackouts and

lighting designer Howard Hudson is simply one of the very best in British theatre. The band is somewhere up above and hidden. Joanna Chichonska has her work cut out as musical director and succeeds without a hitch.

An exceptional cast has been brought together on this project. Jamie Sampson is charismatic and mellow voiced as Sky and Amy Bailey as Sarah really comes into her own in the comedy sequences in Havana. Especially impressive are Patrick Rufey and Jos Slovick as Nicely Nicely and Benny who do a brilliant and acrobatic rendering of the title song. Rebecca Sutherland is hilarious and poignant as Adelaide, the “cold” song (Adelaide’s Second Lament) has never been sung better and James Kermack is suitably harassed as her long-lasting fiancé, the dodgy Nathan Detroit.

This is a show that is full of joy, love and high professionalism. Its run has also been extended so you have plenty of time to be part of the gang.

A great show Guys and Dolls, packed with classic numbers that most people reading this could probably sing at the drop of a hat, or more appropriately the throw of a dice. On opening night in Highgate people were queuing for returns and this production is already a hot ticket, but does it meet their expectations, does this London Fringe première pull it off? Yes, definitely yes!

Director Racky Plews delivers a show full of energy and joie de vivre. She plays it on a traverse that brings everyone within almost touching distance of the action and stages it so that it is performed to the whole house without ever making any obvious contrivance in the blocking.

This is the seedy side of Broadway and Martin Thomas’s design places it in a grey world with tired looking posters lining the rails in front of the audience seating. At one end the band is perched above a pair of square grey arches that could lead into a yard or a gangster hideaway; at the other a wooden scaffold suggests racetrack starting gates, though part of it moves forward and becomes the façade of the shop used as the Salvation Army mission. That’s it, apart from tables, chairs, props and a newsvendor’s tired cart, but it still bursts into colour as it is peopled by the characters of Damon Runyon’s underworld seen through his indulgently rose-tinted eyes.

It is strongly cast and imaginatively choreographed, some of the hottest dancing being in the transitions between scenes which are skilfully contrived and meticulously matched to the moving arches. The sense of street life which marks the opening number begins with characters crossing the stage even before the overture and is sustained throughout with a NY cop used for the rephrased request to turn off mobile phones.

Clever business entwining three telephone cords for three gamblers placing bets (“Fugue for Tinhorns”) establishes a pattern which is decidedly show time not naturalistic and the choreography really takes off

in the prelude to the Havana sequence, amazingly performed in the confines of the space. This is a cast that can really dance as well as sing. There aren’t enough of them to provide the extra hoodlums to make up the dozen sinners that Sky Masterson (Jamie Sampson) promises Salvationist Sarah Brown (Amy Bailey) he will bring to a midnight prayer meeting but with the help of a few hats and prayer books the audience make up the numbers.

This Sky and Sarah are charming, rather than overly charismatic, which is right for this production, though rum produces a remarkable transformation in Bailey’s sedate Sarah on their trip to Havana. They may be the main romance but in this show every character makes an impact from Connor Dowling’s snarling policeman, who always seems to have a bad smell under his sharp nose, to Anthony McGill’s gentle Irish Salvationist who with “More I Cannot Wish You” reveals one of the best voices on stage.

Rebecca Sutherland makes Adelaide a real trouper, touching in “Adelaide’s Lament” and hilarious leading her toe-tapping colleagues Leanne Tain Marshall and Hayley Ellen Scott in the Hot Box cabaret numbers with great style. Meanwhile as her beloved Nathan Detroit (fourteen years engaged still not married) James Kermack gives us a softie beneath his bachelor stubbornness.

Patrick Rufey and Jos Slovik make a great double-act as Nicely and Benny and Paul Bullion’s Harry the Horse, Matthew John Gregory’s Angie the Ox complete these likable underworld characters in contrast to David Muscat’s obnoxious Big Jule.

The band, well-balanced against the voices, the lighting, and Lee Proud’s vigorous choreography — all come together to make this an excellent ensemble production from which it is certainly not the sets you’ll go home singing.

Still the Greatest Floating Crap Game, a great outing for guys and dolls.

This venerable musical by Frank Loesser based on the Damon Runyon stories – it opened on Broadway in 1950 – is arguably the greatest of all musicals. It has a perfect book (Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows) and witty lyrics, and a succession of marvellous songs (by Loesser), not a dud among them, although that did not stop the film version starring Sinatra and Brando ditching five numbers and putting in three new ones (by Loesser fortunately). It is not a fool proof show. The last Broadway revival was a flop.

But this fringe production is no miss. It has a hard working cast of 13, slick direction by Racky Plews, and a standout performance from Rebecca Sutherland as Miss Adelaide, the redheaded broad with a permanent cold, engaged for 14 years to Nathan Detroit, who runs the aforesaid floating crap game.

Plews has given it a traverse staging – the audience sits on opposite sides of the acting space which is in effect a corridor – my least favourite way of disposing of seating. It creates some awkward staging problems, mostly overcome. The show is also miked, which, given there is a decent band under Joanna Cichonska, is probably necessary, but in a house this size ought not to be needed. Whatever happened to voice production?

Some of the American accents are dicey, and occasionally the pace slackens, but when Adelaide, who gets the best songs, comes along it takes wing. Give that girl back her mink! Anthony McGill delivers a splendid More I Cannot Wish, an object lesson to all around, as the uncle of Sarah Brown – sweetly sung by Amy Bailey – the Salvation Army girl wooed by gambler Sky Masterson, a sturdy, Jamie Sampson. Patrick Ruffy duly rocks the boat as Nicely Nicely and James Kermack is a suitably shifty Nathan.

It makes the perfect outing for all guys and dolls seeking to dispel those New Year blues.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

2011 really has been a fantastic year for fringe musicals in London. Theatres south of the river like the Landor, the Union and Southwark Playhouse have delivered works of great precision and concentrated passion, but at this late juncture in the year, the team Upstairs at the Gatehouse have redressed the balance northwards with an audaciously thrilling production of Frank Loesser’s classic Guys and Dolls, the first fringe version of it to be seen in London. Noo Yoik gangsters, gamblers, showgirls, missionaries and compulsive eaters all come together as guys chase unattainable dolls and other dolls try to get their guys down the aisle whilst they’re trying to organise a little gambling tournament. And of course it is all accompanied by one of the most glorious scores in musical theatre – no mean feat for a fringe venue to attempt.

The space above the Highgate pub has been opened up marvellously in Racky Plew’s traverse staging which allows Martin Thomas’ free-flowing design to cleverly work in the limited space yet make it feel ideally suited to the purpose. But the main beneficiary of the staging is Lee Proud’s choreography which is outrageously daring (people in the front row are safe, but may flinch!) and breathtakingly executed with style and accuracy by the 12-strong ensemble, the tall drink of ginger ale that is Paul Bullion stood out most for me. From the striking opening routine to the iconic leaping dance of the dice-rolling men to the teasing turns from Miss Adelaide and her counterparts, this is pure quality across the board and incredible to see at such close quarters.

Performance-wise too, this is an ensemble who have worked extremely well to create carefully detailed characters so that even the smallest cameos have great impact. Anthony McGill’s kindly Abernathy gives a tenderly beautiful More I Cannot Wish You; Patrick Rufey’s always-eating Nicely Nicely nearly brings down the house leading a raucous Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat; and Connor Dowling steals every scene he is in as the mad-eyed, helium-voiced Officer Brannigan, a simply hilarious performance. Of the main performers, only Amy Bailey’s Sarah Brown showed a little reticence in the first half but soon warmed up and joined Jamie Sampson’s charismatic Sky, James Kermack’s hugely appealing Nathan and Rebecca Sutherland’s show-stopping Miss Adelaide in presenting hugely engaging and likeable leads.

The only tiny criticism that emerged from the evening was that a few too many minor slips crept in, fringe theatres can be quite unforgiving and so every little hiccup was exposed but nothing major and most, if not all, should be ironed out as the run progresses, making this a rather unmissable show. Delightfully daring and audaciously staged, this really is a piece of true Broadway magic in Highgate and oddly enough, feels like the perfect feel-good festive family show: recommended.