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Acting areas rise out of the floor while spangled lights descend from above, declaring locations from The Hot Box nightclub to Lindy’s diner.
The story of veteran street hustler Nathan Detroit (Daniel Mays) who organises illegal crap (aka dice) games is parlayed in Runyon’s vivid dialogue, and Frank Loesser’s songs that are so memorable you start singing them in your head before the cast has even opened their mouths.
When ace gambler Sky Masterson (Andrew Richardson) comes to town, Nathan places a bet he is guaranteed to win, though not quite in the way he anticipates. Romance beckons between lone wolf Sky and buttoned-up Save-A-Soul sister Sarah Brown (Celinde Schoenmaker).
Runyon’s cocktail of elaborately formal language and gangster slang is delivered to the manner born and it is refreshing to see roles elevated beyond cliché. Marisha Wallace in particular brings fresh insight into Miss Adelaide, Nathan’s eternal fiancée, notably in her rendition of Adelaide’s Lament.
The showstopper is of course Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ The Boat which Cedric Neal delivers with enough swing to capsize the theatre as the entire company sways to Dame Arlene Phillips’s vibrant choreography.
Richardson could use a little more swagger as Sky – at present, his conversion is not so much from snake-eyed gambler to altruistic romantic as from good guy to even better guy.
However, Hytner’s triumph is to bring fresh eyes to a familiar story while remaining true to the mood and milieu of the tale and conveying Runyon’s exaggerated cartoon characters as flesh and blood human beings.
Bridge Theatre until September 2. Tickets: 0333 320 0051
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