Why I love Guys and Dolls

Well, if I was a bell I'd be ringing. Guys and Dolls is back and I can't wait. Great authorities on the Broadway musical will tell you that Frank Loesser's 1950 creation is the show of shows, simply the very best example of the form. I'm no expert but I reckon they're right. I loved it the moment I first saw it.

Start in the place where every musical stands or falls: the tunes. In the Lloyd Webber era, punters think themselves lucky if they leave the theatre with a single melody they can whistle. The songs in most modern musicals are easy enough on the ear at the time: the trouble is, they go in that ear and straight out the other.

Guys and Dolls, which is playing at the Piccadilly Theatre in London, is not that kind of show. From the opening number, one unforgettable, perfectly-formed tune comes after another. It's a greatest hits album of a musical, from Luck be a Lady to Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat, this is a show that can never finish - it's just too full of show-stoppers.

But these are not songs you want to whistle: that would be a waste of the words. Loesser's lyrics, inspired by Damon Runyon's Broadway tales of gangsters and their molls, include some of the sharpest writing ever performed on the stage, musical or not. Who can resist an opener that rhymes "What's playing at the Roxy?" with " ... moves all the way to Biloxi?" Or Sky Masterson's plea: "So let's keep the party polite, never get out of my sight ... Luck be a lady tonight"?

The story is familiar enough - boy meets girl for a bet, boy falls for girl for real - but the Runyonesqe dialogue, the fast-talking wise guys and their long-suffering dolls make it irresistible.

I suspect men who might normally shy away from the genre, seeing it as camp or sappy, make an exception for Guys and Dolls. That's partly thanks to the 1955 movie which, improbably, cast Marlon Brando as Sky. He had no voice, but enough machismo to ensure the show would never be consigned to the pile marked effete, kitsch or ironic. Casting Ewan McGregor - with movie-star sex appeal - in the Brando role maintains that tradition admirably.

So I will be first in the queue for the new production. And if it turns out to be a disappointment? Call a lawyer and sue me, sue me, what can you do me?

From the Shortcuts page of the Guardian