THE main stage of York Theatre Royal is transformed into the backstreets of New York City and downtown Havana for York Light Opera Company’s latest production, Frank Loesser’s much-loved classic, Guys And Dolls.

A high-stakes bet between gamblers Nathan Detroit and Sky Masterson brings the righteous Save-a-Soul missionary Sergeant Sarah Brown into their seedy world.

Annabel Van Griethuysen and George Morgan shine in their company debuts as unlikely pairing Sarah and Sky, each expertly portraying the nuances and complexities of their characters.

Morgan delivers Sky’s charm and bravado with flair, but by the end of the first act, we begin to suspect that there is a caring side underneath the swagger.

Equally, Van Griethuysen presents Sarah as far more than the straight-laced, pious do-gooder she is sometimes considered to be, and her fantastic performance of If I Were A Bell allows the audience to see the fun and adventurous aspects of Sarah’s personality. Both embrace the challenges of Loesser’s score, casting a show-stopping spell of poise, passion and professionalism.

On the other side of the bet are Nathan and his long-suffering fiancée of 14 years, nightclub performer Miss Adelaide. Rachael Wilkinson masterfully contrasts Adelaide’s nightclub and private personas. She and the Hot Box Girls are exceptionally entertaining in Bushel And A Peck and Take Back Your Mink, deservedly meeting with rapturous applause.

However, Wilkinson really lets Adelaide’s vulnerability come to the fore in both of the Laments, and the audience can’t help but feel Adelaide’s frustration and root for Nathan to get his act together!

Andy Roberts is confident, funny and assured in his portrayal of the ducking and diving Nathan, and does an excellent and consistent New York accent. Nathan, Nicely Nicely Johnson (Richard Barton), Benny Southstreet (Pierre Van Griethuysen) and Rusty Charlie (Alasdair Elmes) work especially well as an ensemble, skilfully conveying the rapport between the gamblers.

It has been 30 years since York Light’s last staging of Guys And Dolls, and Geoffrey Turner – the only original player from that production appearing once more – makes a triumphant return, reprising his role as Sarah’s fellow missionary and grandfather, kindly Arvide Abernathy. Turner is perfectly at home as Arvide, playing matchmaker between Sarah and Sky with a moving performance of More I Cannot Wish You.

The orchestra, conducted by John Atkin, give Loesser’s score the energy and character it demands, sensitively accompanying the cast while making the music their own. The overture and Crapshooters’ Dance in particular are real instrumental treats.

Despite a couple of opening-night slips, director and choreographer Martyn Knight, assistant director Sue Hawksworth and York Light have created a fantastically entertaining and charming production, which breathes new life into the popular musical.

York Light presents Guys And Dolls, York Theatre Royal, until March 17, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinees. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Review by Alice Masterson