Guys and Dolls

Guys and Dolls is a musical with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows. It is based on "The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure", which are two short stories by Damon Runyon,[1][2] and also borrows characters and plot elements from other Runyon stories – most notably "Pick the Winner".[3]

Guys and Dolls
Original 1950 Broadway Cast Recording
MusicFrank Loesser
LyricsFrank Loesser
BookJo Swerling
Abe Burrows
Basis"The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown" and "Blood Pressure" by Damon Runyon[1]
Productions1950 Broadway
1953 West End
1976 Broadway revival
1982 London revival
1992 Broadway revival
2005 West End revival
2009 Broadway revival
2015 West End revival
AwardsTony Award for Best Musical
Tony Award for Best Book
(1982) Olivier for Outstanding Musical
Tony Award for Best Revival
Drama Desk Outstanding Revival
(2005) Olivier for Outstanding Musical

The show premiered on Broadway in 1950, where it ran for 1,200 performances and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. The musical has had several Broadway and London revivals, as well as a 1955 film adaptation starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra and Vivian Blaine.

Guys and Dolls was selected as the winner of the 1951 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. However, because of writer Abe Burrows' troubles with the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the Trustees of Columbia University vetoed the selection, and no Pulitzer for Drama was awarded that year.[4]

In 1998[5], Vivian Blaine, Sam Levene, Robert Alda, Isabel Bigley along with the original Broadway cast of the 1950 Decca cast album was posthumously inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


Guys and Dolls was conceived by producers Cy Feuer and Ernest Martin as an adaptation of Damon Runyon's short stories.[6] These stories, written in the 1920s and 1930s, concerned gangsters, gamblers, and other characters of the New York underworld. Runyon was known for the unique dialect he employed in his stories, mixing highly formal language and slang.[7] Frank Loesser, who had spent most of his career as a lyricist for movie musicals, was hired as composer and lyricist. George S. Kaufman was hired as director. When the first version of the show's book, or dialogue, written by Jo Swerling was deemed unusable, Feuer and Martin asked radio comedy writer Abe Burrows to rewrite it.[6][8]

Loesser had already written much of the score to correspond with the first version of the book.[7] Burrows later recalled:

Frank Loesser's fourteen songs were all great, and the [new book] had to be written so that the story would lead into each of them. Later on, the critics spoke of the show as 'integrated'. The word integration usually means that the composer has written songs that follow the story line gracefully. Well, we accomplished that but we did it in reverse.[9]

Abe Burrows specifically crafted[10] the role of Nathan Detroit around Sam Levene who signed for the project long before Burrows wrote a single word of dialogue, a similar break Burrows said he had when he wrote “Cactus Flower” for Lauren Bacall. In “Honest, Abe: Is There Really No Business Like Show Business?”, Burrows recalls “I had the sound of their voices in my head. I knew the rhythm of their speech and it helped make the dialogue sharper and more real”. Although Broadway and movie veteran Sam Levene was not a singer, it was agreed Levene was otherwise perfect as Nathan Detroit; indeed, Levene was one of Runyon's favorite actors. Frank Loesser agreed it was easier adjusting the music to Levene's limitations than substituting a better singer who couldn’t act.[11] Levene's lack of singing ability is the reason the lead role of Nathan Detroit only has one song, the duet “Sue Me”.

Composer and lyricist Frank Loesser specifically wrote “Sue Me” for Sam Levene and structured the song so he and Vivian Blaine never sang their show stopping duet together; the son of a cantor, Sam Levene was fluent in Yiddish: “Alright, already, I’m just a no-goodnick; alright, already, it’s true, so nu? So sue me.” Frank Loesser felt[12] “Nathan Detroit should be played as a brassy Broadway tough guy who sang with more grits than gravy. Sam Levene sang “Sue Me” with such a wonderful Runyonesque flavor that his singing had been easy to forgive, in fact it had been quite charming in its ineptitude.” “Musically, Sam Levene may have been tone-deaf, but he inhabited Frank Loesser’s world as a character more than a caricature”, says[13] Fordham Professor of Music Larry Stempel, author “Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater”.

The character of Miss Adelaide was created specifically to fit Vivian Blaine into the musical, after Loesser decided she was ill-suited to play the conservative Sarah.[14] When Loesser suggested reprising some songs in the second act, Kaufman warned: "If you reprise the songs, we'll reprise the jokes."[15]


Act I

A pantomime of never-ceasing activities depicts the hustle and bustle of New York City ("Runyonland"). Three small-time gamblers, Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Benny Southstreet, and Rusty Charlie, argue over which horse will win a big race ("Fugue for Tinhorns"). The band members of the Save-a-Soul Mission, led by the pious and beautiful Sergeant Sarah Brown, call for sinners to "Follow the Fold" and repent. Nicely and Benny's employer, Nathan Detroit, runs an illegal floating crap game. Due to local policeman Lt. Brannigan's strong-armed presence, he has found only one likely spot to hold the game: the "Biltmore garage." Its owner, Joey Biltmore, requires a $1,000 security deposit, and Nathan is broke ("The Oldest Established"). Nathan hopes to win a $1,000 bet against Sky Masterson, a gambler willing to bet on virtually anything. Nathan proposes a bet he believes he cannot lose: Sky must take a woman of Nathan's choice to dinner in Havana, Cuba. Sky agrees, and Nathan chooses Sarah Brown. At the mission, Sky claims he wants to be saved, impressing Sarah with his knowledge of the Bible. He offers Sarah a deal: He will bring the mission "one dozen genuine sinners" if she will accompany him to Havana the next night. Sarah rebuffs him, telling him that she plans to fall in love with an upright, moral man. Sky replies that he plans on being surprised when he falls in love ("I'll Know"). Sky kisses Sarah, and she slaps him. Nathan goes to watch his fiancée of 14 years, Adelaide, perform her nightclub act ("A Bushel and a Peck"). After her show, she asks him, as she has many times before, to go down to city hall and get a marriage license. She also tells Nathan that she has been sending her mother letters for twelve years claiming that they have been married with five children. She is distraught to find out that Nathan is still running the crap game. She consults a medical book, which tells her that her chronic cold is a psychosomatic reaction to her frustration with Nathan's failure to marry her ("Adelaide's Lament").

The next day, Nicely and Benny watch as Sky pursues Sarah, and Nathan tries to win back Adelaide's favor. They declare that guys will do anything for the dolls they love ("Guys and Dolls"). General Cartwright, the leader of Save-a-Soul, visits the mission and explains that she will be forced to close the branch unless they succeed in bringing some sinners to the upcoming revival meeting. Sarah, desperate to save the mission, promises the General "one dozen genuine sinners", implicitly accepting Sky's deal. The gamblers, including a notorious gangster from Chicago named Big Jule, are waiting for Nathan to secure the spot for the game, and Lt. Brannigan becomes suspicious. To convince him of their innocence, they tell Brannigan their gathering is Nathan's "surprise bachelor party". This satisfies Brannigan, and Nathan resigns himself to eloping with Adelaide. Adelaide goes home to pack, promising to meet him after her show the next afternoon. The Save-A-Soul Mission band passes by, and Nathan sees that Sarah is not in it; he realizes that he lost the bet and faints.

In a Havana nightclub, Sky buys a drink for himself and a "Cuban milkshake" for Sarah. She doesn't realize that the drink contains Bacardi rum, and innocently drinks multiple glasses, becoming progressively tipsier. Outside the club, Sarah kisses Sky and proclaims that she is truly enjoying herself for the first time in her life ("If I Were a Bell"). She wants to stay in Havana with Sky. Sky is surprised to find, though, that he truly cares about Sarah's welfare, and he insists that they go back to the airport and return to New York. Back in New York, it is 4:00 a.m., and as Sky and Sarah (now sober) stand in the street outside the mission, Sky tells her that this is his favorite time of day, and that she is the only woman he's ever wanted to share it with ("My Time of Day"). They both spontaneously admit that they're in love ("I've Never Been in Love Before"). A siren sounds and gamblers run out of the mission, where Nathan has been holding the crap game. Sarah infers that Sky took her to Havana and pretended to be in love with her just so Nathan could use the mission for the game, rejecting his protests of innocence.

Act II

The next evening, Adelaide performs her act at the Hot Box ("Take Back Your Mink"). Nathan doesn't show up for the elopement because he's still running the crap game. She soon realizes that Nathan has stood her up again and turns to her book for comfort ("Adelaide's Second Lament").

Sarah admits to Arvide, her grandfather and fellow mission worker, that she loves Sky but will never see him again because she believes he is responsible for the previous night's crap game. Arvide expresses his faith in Sky's inherent goodness and urges Sarah to follow her heart ("More I Cannot Wish You"). Sky tells Sarah he intends to deliver the dozen genuine sinners for the revival. She doesn't believe him and walks off, but Arvide subtly encourages him.

Nicely shows Sky where the game is being held: the sewer ("Crapshooters Dance"). Big Jule has lost a large amount of cash and insists on playing on credit. To change his luck he uses his own dice, which are blank, and proceeds to cheat Nathan out of all of his money. Sky then arrives with Nicely. Big Jule isn't impressed, but Sky responds by punching him out. He then gives Nathan $1,000, saying that Nathan won the bet and implying that Sarah refused to go to Havana with him. Sky, determined to get the dozen sinners he promised Sarah, bets everyone at the game a thousand dollars against their souls. If he loses, every man gets a thousand dollars; if he wins, they must all attend the revival at the mission ("Luck Be a Lady"). He tosses the dice. The gamblers head towards the mission, and it is clear that Sky has won his bet. On his way there, Nathan runs into Adelaide and tells her that he has to attend the prayer meeting. Adelaide does not believe him. She asks herself why she keeps putting up with Nathan's lies, and he tells her that he loves her ("Sue Me").

Sky and the gamblers arrive at the mission, much to Sarah's surprise. General Cartwright asks if anyone wishes to testify to their sins. Benny and Big Jule do, but another gambler named Harry The Horse lets slip that Sky only got them to the meeting because he won their souls in a dice game. The General is very pleased by this as it shows that good can come out of evil. Attempting to appear contrite, Nicely invents a dream that encouraged him to repent, and the gamblers join in with revivalist fervor ("Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat"). Brannigan arrives and threatens to arrest everyone for the crap game in the Mission, but Sarah clears them, saying that none of the gamblers were at the mission the previous night. After Brannigan leaves, Nathan confesses that they held the crap game in the mission. He also confesses to the bet he made with Sky about taking Sarah to Havana. He adds that he won the bet, to Sarah's shock, and she realizes that Sky wanted to protect her reputation and must genuinely care about her.

Sarah and Adelaide run into each other, and they commiserate and then resolve to marry their men anyway and reform them later ("Marry the Man Today"). Several weeks later, Nathan has opened a newsstand. Sky and Sarah have just been married, and Sky is playing the drum in the mission band. Adelaide and Nathan are about to get married at the mission, and Sky tells Nathan he'll lay eight to ten odds that he will be very happy. Adelaide expresses joy at the thought of being together with Nathan forever. Nathan sneezes in response, implying that he has developed a cold similar to Adelaide. The title song is reprised ("Guys and Dolls" (Finale/Reprise)).

Musical numbers


Original Broadway Production

The musical premiered on Broadway at the 46th Street Theatre (now Richard Rodgers Theatre) on November 24, 1950. It was directed by George S. Kaufman, with dances and musical numbers by Michael Kidd, scenic and lighting design by Jo Mielziner, costumes by Alvin Colt, and orchestrations by George Bassman and Ted Royal, with vocal arrangements by Herbert Greene[16] It starred Robert Alda (Sky Masterson), Sam Levene (Nathan Detroit), Isabel Bigley (Sarah) and Vivian Blaine (Miss Adelaide). Iva Withers was a replacement as Miss Adelaide. The musical ran for 1,200 performances, winning five 1951 Tony Awards, including the award for Best Musical. Decca Records issued the original cast recording on 78 rpm records, which was later expanded and re-issued on LP, and then transferred to CD in the 1980s.

First UK Production

The premiere West End production opened at the London Coliseum on May 28, 1953 a few days before the 1953 Coronation and ran for 555 performances, including a Royal Command Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth on November 2, 1953. The London cast starred Vivian Blaine as Miss Adelaide and Sam Levene as Nathan Detroit, each reprising their original Broadway performances; Jerry Wayne performed the role of Sky Masterson since Robert Alda did not reprise his Broadway role in the first UK production which co-starred Lizbeth Webb as Sarah Brown. Before opening at the Coliseum, Guys and Dolls had an eight performance run at the Bristol Hippodrome, where the show opened on May 19, 1953 and closed on May 25, 1953.[17][18] Lizbeth Webb was the only major principal who was British and was chosen to play the part of Sarah Brown by Frank Loesser. The show has had numerous revivals and tours and has become a popular choice for school and community theatre productions.

First Las Vegas Production

Vivian Blaine as Miss Adelaide, Sam Levene as Nathan Detroit and Robert Alda as Sky Masterson recreated their original Broadway performances twice daily in a slightly reduced version of Guys and Dolls when the first Las Vegas production opened a six-month run at the Royal Nevada, September 7, 1955, the first time a Broadway musical had ever been performed on the Las Vegas strip.[19]

Fifteenth Anniversary Productionion

In 1965 Vivian Blaine and Sam Levene reprised their original Broadway roles as Miss Adelaide and Nathan Detroit in a 15th anniversary revival of Guys and Dolls at the Mineola Theatre, Mineola, New York and Paramus Playhouse, New Jersey. Blaine and Levene performed the show for 24 performances at each theatre.

New York City Center 1955, 1965 and 1966 revivals

New York City Center mounted short runs of the musical in 1955, 1965 and 1966. A production starring Walter Matthau as Nathan Detroit, Helen Gallagher as Adelaide, Ray Shaw as Sky and Leila Martin as Sarah had 31 performances, running from April 20 to May 1, and May 31 to June 12, 1955.[20][21]

Another presentation at City Center, with Alan King as Nathan Detroit, Sheila MacRae as Adelaide, Jerry Orbach as Sky and Anita Gillette as Sarah, ran for 15 performances from April 28 to May 9, 1965. A 1966 production, starring Jan Murray as Nathan Detroit, Vivian Blaine reprising her role as Adelaide, Hugh O'Brian as Sky, and Barbara Meister as Sarah, ran for 23 performances, from June 8 to June 26, 1966.[22]

1976 Broadway revival

An all-black cast staged the first Broadway revival of the show, which opened on July 11, 1976 in previews, officially on July 21, at The Broadway Theatre. It starred Robert Guillaume as Nathan Detroit, Norma Donaldson as Miss Adelaide, James Randolph as Sky and Ernestine Jackson as Sarah Brown. Guillaume and Jackson were nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards, and Ken Page as Nicely-Nicely won a Theatre World Award.

This production featured Motown-style musical arrangements by Danny Holgate and Horace Ott, and it was directed and choreographed by Billy Wilson. The entire production was under the supervision of Abe Burrows, and musical direction and choral arrangements were by Howard Roberts.

The show closed on February 13, 1977, after 12 previews and 239 performances. A cast recording was released subsequent to the show's opening.

1982 London revival

Laurence Olivier had wanted to play Nathan Detroit, and began rehearsals for a planned 1971 London revival of Guys and Dolls at his National Theatre Company's Old Vic theatre. However, due to poor health he had to stop, and his revival never saw the light of day.[23]

In 1982, Richard Eyre directed a major revival at London's National Theatre. Eyre called it a "re-thinking" of the musical, and his production featured an award-winning neon-lit set design inspired by Rudi Stern's 1979 book Let There Be Neon,[24] and brassier orchestrations with vintage yet innovative harmonies.[25][26] The show's choreography by David Toguri included a large-scale tap dance number of the "Guys and Dolls" finale, performed by the principals and entire cast. The revival opened March 9, 1982, and was an overnight sensation,[27] running for nearly four years and breaking all box office records.[28][29] The original cast featured Bob Hoskins as Nathan Detroit, Julia McKenzie as Adelaide, Ian Charleson as Sky and Julie Covington as Sarah.[30] The production won five Olivier Awards, including for McKenzie and Eyre and for Best Musical. Eyre also won the Evening Standard Award, and Hoskins won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award.

In October 1982, Hoskins was replaced by Trevor Peacock, Charleson by Paul Jones, and Covington by Belinda Sinclair; in the spring of 1983 McKenzie was replaced by Imelda Staunton and Fiona Hendley replaced Sinclair. This production closed in late 1983 to make way for a Broadway try-out of the ill-fated musical Jean Seberg, which following critical failure closed after four months.[31] Eyre's Guys and Dolls returned to the National from April through September 1984, this time starring Lulu, Norman Rossington, Clarke Peters and Betsy Brantley.[32][33] After a nationwide tour, this production transferred to the West End at the Prince of Wales Theatre, where it ran from June 1985 to April 1986.[34][35]

Following Ian Charleson's untimely death from AIDS at the age of 40, in November 1990 two reunion performances of Guys and Dolls, with almost all of the original 1982 cast and musicians, were given at the National Theatre as a tribute to Charleson. The tickets sold out immediately, and the dress rehearsal was also packed. The proceeds from the performances were donated to the new Ian Charleson Day Centre HIV clinic at the Royal Free Hospital, and to scholarships in Charleson's name at LAMDA.[36]

1992 Broadway revival

The 1992 Broadway revival was the most successful American remounting of the show since the original landmark Broadway production which ran for 1,200 performances. Directed by Jerry Zaks, it starred Nathan Lane as Nathan Detroit, Peter Gallagher as Sky, Faith Prince as Adelaide and Josie de Guzman as Sarah. This production played at the Martin Beck Theatre from April 14, 1992 to January 8, 1995, with 1,143 performances.

The production received a rave review from Frank Rich in The New York Times, stating "It's hard to know which genius, and I do mean genius, to celebrate first while cheering the entertainment at the Martin Beck."[37] It received eight Tony Award nominations, and won four, including Best Revival, and the show also won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival. This revival featured various revisions to the show's score, including brand new music for the "Runyonland", "A Bushel and a Peck", "Take Back Your Mink" and "Havana". The orchestrations were redesigned by Michael Starobin, and there were new dance arrangements added to "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink".

A one-hour documentary film captured the recording sessions of the production's original cast album. Titled Guys and Dolls: Off the Record, the film aired on PBS's Great Performances series in December 1992, and was released on DVD in 2007.[38][39] Complete takes of most of the show's songs are featured, as well as coaching from director Zaks, and commentary sessions by stars Gallagher, de Guzman, Lane, and Prince on the production and their characters.

1996 London revival

Richard Eyre repeated his 1982 success with another National Theatre revival of the show, this time in a limited run. It starred Henry Goodman as Nathan Detroit, Imelda Staunton returning as Adelaide, Clarke Peters returning as Sky and Joanna Riding as Sarah. Clive Rowe played Nicely-Nicely Johnson, and David Toguri returned as choreographer. The production ran from December 17, 1996 through March 29, 1997 and from July 2, 1997 to November 22, 1997.[40][41] It received three Olivier Award nominations, winning one: Best Supporting Performance in a Musical went to Clive Rowe.[42] Richard Eyre won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Director, and the production won Best Musical.

2005 West End revival

The 2005 West End revival opened at London's Piccadilly Theatre in June 2005 and closed in April 2007. This revival, directed by Michael Grandage, starred Ewan McGregor as Sky, Jenna Russell as Sarah, Jane Krakowski as Adelaide, and Douglas Hodge as Nathan Detroit.[43] During the run, Nigel Harman, Adam Cooper, Norman Bowman and Ben Richards took over as Sky; Kelly Price, Amy Nuttall and Lisa Stokke took over as Sarah; Sarah Lancashire, Sally Ann Triplett, Claire Sweeney, Lynsey Britton and Samantha Janus took over as Adelaide; and Nigel Lindsay, Neil Morrissey, Patrick Swayze, Alex Ferns and Don Johnson took over as Nathan Detroit. This production added the song "Adelaide" that Frank Loesser had written for the 1955 film adaptation. According to a September 2007 article in, this West End production had been scheduled to begin previews for a transfer to Broadway in February 2008, but this plan was dropped.[44]

2009 Broadway revival

A 2009 Broadway revival of the show opened on March 1, 2009 at the Nederlander Theatre. The cast starred Oliver Platt as Nathan Detroit, Lauren Graham, in her Broadway debut, as Adelaide, Craig Bierko as Sky and Kate Jennings Grant as Sarah. Des McAnuff was the director, and the choreographer was Sergio Trujillo.[45][46] The show opened to generally negative reviews.[47] The New York Times called it "static" and "uninspired",[48] the New York Post said, "How can something so zippy be so tedious?"[49] and Time Out New York wrote, "Few things are more enervating than watching good material deflate."[50] However, the show received a highly favorable review from The New Yorker,[51] and the producers decided to keep the show open in hopes of positive audience response. The New York Post reported on March 4 that producer Howard Panter "[said] he'll give Guys and Dolls at least seven weeks to find an audience."[52] The revival closed on June 14, 2009 after 28 previews and 113 performances.[53]

2015–16 West End revival and UK/Ireland tour

A revival opened at the 2015 Chichester Festival. This moved to Manchester and Birmingham before moving onto a West End opening at the Savoy Theatre on December 10, 2015 for previews with a full opening on January 6, 2016 until March 12, 2016. The production stars Sophie Thompson as Adelaide and Jamie Parker as Sky.[54] The production then transferred to the Phoenix Theatre, with Oliver Tompsett as Sky, Samantha Spiro as Adelaide and Richard Kind as Nathan. On June 28, 2016, the role of Miss Adelaide was taken over by Rebel Wilson, and Nathan Detroit was played by Simon Lipkin.[55] The tour continues around UK cities and Dublin.[56]

2017/2018 UK all-black production

Talawa Theatre Company and Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre produced the UK's first all-black Guys and Dolls in 2017. The production opened on December 2, 2017 and following an extension ran to February 27, 2018 at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.[57][58][59][57][60][61] The cast included Ray Fearon as Nathan Detroit, Ashley Zhangazha as Sky Masterson, Abiona Omonua as Sarah Brown, and Lucy Vandi as Miss Adelaide.[62][63]

In this production, the musical was relocated to Harlem, 1939, with the music referencing jazz, and gospel. Director Michael Buffong said, "Pre-war Harlem was all about the hustle. The creativity of that era was born from a unique collision of talent and circumstance as people escaped the agricultural and oppressive south via the 'underground railroad' into the highly urbanised and industrialised north. Much of our popular culture, from dance to music, has its roots in that period. Our Guys and Dolls brings all of this to the fore."[57][64]

Reviews particularly praised the music, relocation to Harlem, and sense of spectacle: The Guardian noted, "the gamblers ... are a bunch of sharp-suited peacocks clad in rainbow hues."[65] The Times commented, "Whoever had the idea of moving this classic musical from one part of New York to another bit, just up the road, needs to be congratulated. This version of Frank Loesser's musical, which swirls around the lives of the petty gangsters and their 'dolls' who inhabit New York's underbelly, moves the action to Harlem at its prewar height in 1939. It is a Talawa production with an all-black cast and it is terrific from the get-go."[66] The Observer stated, "Relocated to Harlem, this fine new production of Frank Loesser's classic musical retains a threat of violence under a cartoon-bright exterior."[67]


In 1995, a Las Vegas production, performed without intermission, starred Jack Jones, Maureen McGovern and Frank Gorshin.

Charles Randolph-Wright directed a production at Washington's Arena Stage, starring Maurice Hines (Nathan Detroit) and Alexandra Foucard (Adelaide), opening on December 30, 1999.[68][69] The production received six Helen Hayes Award nominations.[70] With support from Jo Sullivan Loesser, the production began a national tour in August 2001.[71][72] The cast recording from this production, released in November 2001, was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.[73][74]

An Australian remount of the Michael Grandage West End production of Guys and Dolls opened in Melbourne, Australia on April 5, 2008. The show starred Lisa McCune, Marina Prior, Garry McDonald, Ian Stenlake, Shane Jacobson, Wayne Scott Kermond, and Magda Szubanski, and ran at the Princess Theatre.[75] The Melbourne season closed in August 2008 and transferred to Sydney from March 13, 2009 to May 31, 2009 at the Capitol Theatre, retaining the Melbourne cast.[76]

In August 2009, a concert version ran at The Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, California, starring Scott Bakula (Nathan Detroit), Brian Stokes Mitchell (Sky Masterson), Ellen Greene (Miss Adelaide), and Jessica Biel (Sarah Brown).[77]

In February 2011, a co-production between Clwyd Theatr Cymru, the New Wolsey Theatre and the Salisbury Playhouse opened at Clwyd Theatr. Directed by Peter Rowe and with music direction by Greg Palmer and choreography by Francesca Jaynes, the show was performed by a cast of 22 actor-musicians, with all music played live on stage by the cast. The show also toured Cardiff, Swansea, and other Welsh cities as well as some English cities, receiving a positive review in The Guardian.[78][79]

A concert performance ran at London's Cadogan Hall from 22–25 August 2012, featuring Dennis Waterman, Ruthie Henshall, Anna-Jane Casey, and Lance Ellington (Strictly Come Dancing), with musical director Richard Balcombe and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and Choir.[80]

In April 2014, a one-night-only performance took place at Carnegie Hall, starring Nathan Lane reprising the role that made him a star, Megan Mullally, Patrick Wilson and Sierra Boggess. It was directed by Jack O'Brien and featured the Orchestra of St. Luke's playing the original orchestrations.[81]


The original Broadway production of Guys and Dolls opened to unanimously positive reviews which was a relief to the cast who had a 41 performance pre-Broadway tryout in Philadelphia in which each of the 41 performances were different. Critics praised the musical's faithfulness to Damon Runyon's style and characterizations. Richard Watts of the New York Post said "Guys and Dolls is just what it should be to celebrate the Runyon spirit ... [it is] filled with the salty characters and richly original language sacred to the memory of the late Master".[82] William Hawkins of the New York World-Telegram & Sun stated, "It recaptures what [Runyon] knew about Broadway, that its wickedness is tinhorn, but its gallantry is as pure and young as Little Eva".[82] Robert Coleman of the New York Daily Mirror declared, "We think Damon would have relished it as much as we did".[82]

The book and score were greatly praised as well; John Chapman of the New York Daily News declared, "The book is a work of easy and delightful humor. Its music and lyrics, by Frank Loesser, are so right for the show and so completely lacking in banality, that they amount to an artistic triumph".[82] Coleman stated, "Frank Loesser has written a score that will get a big play on the juke boxes, over the radio, and in bistros throughout the land. His lyrics are especially notable in that they help Burrows's topical gags to further the plot". In The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson wrote, "Mr. Loesser's lyrics and songs have the same affectionate appreciation of the material as the book, which is funny without being self-conscious or mechanical".[83]

Multiple critics asserted that the work was of great significance to musical theatre. John McClain of the New York Journal American proclaimed, "it is the best and most exciting thing of its kind since Pal Joey. It is a triumph and a delight".[82] Atkinson stated, "we might as well admit that Guys and Dolls is a work of art. It is spontaneous and has form, style, and spirit."[83] Chapman asserted, "In all departments, Guys and Dolls is a perfect musical comedy".[82]

Laurence Olivier said[84] Sam Levene's performance as Nathan Detroit was the greatest stage performance he'd ever seen.

Film adaptation

On November 3, 1955 the film version of the musical was released, starring Marlon Brando as Sky, Frank Sinatra as Nathan Detroit, and Jean Simmons as Sarah, with Vivian Blaine reprising her role as Adelaide. The film was directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by Samuel Goldwyn.

Levene lost the film role of Nathan Detroit to Frank Sinatra; "You can’t have a Jew playing a Jew, it wouldn’t work on screen", producer Samuel Goldwyn argued[85], explaining he wanted Sinatra rather than Levene who had originated the role even though “Guys and Dolls” film director Joseph L. Mankiewicz wanted Levene, the original Broadway star. Frank Loesser felt Sinatra[86] played the part like a “dapper Italian swinger”. Mankiewicz said[87] ”if there could be one person in the world more miscast as Nathan Detroit than Frank Sinatra that would be Laurence Olivier and I am one of his greatest fans; the role had been written for Sam Levene who was divine in it”. Sinatra did his best to give Nathan Detroit a few stereotyped Jewish gestures and inflections, but Frank Loesser hated[88] “how Sinatra turned the rumpled Nathan Detroit into a smoothie. Sam Levene’s husky untrained voice added to the song’s charm, not to mention its believability”. Frank Loesser died in 1969, still refusing[89] to watch the film version released in 1955.

Six decades ago, American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim wrote film reviews for “Films In Review”. A then 25 year old Sondheim reviewed the film version of “Guys and Dolls”, and observed[90] “Sinatra ambles through his role as Nathan Detroit as though he were about to laugh at the jokes in the script. He has none of he sob in the voice, and the incipient ulcer in the stomach, that the part requires and Sam Levene supplied so hilariously on the stage. Sinatra sings on pitch, but colorlessly; Levene sang off pitch, but acted while he sang. Sinatra’s lackadaisical performance, his careless and left handed attempt at characterization not only harm the picture immeasurably but indicate an alarming lack of professionally.”

Three new songs, written by Frank Loesser, were added to the film: "Pet Me Poppa"; "A Woman in Love"; and "Adelaide", which was written specifically for Sinatra. Five songs from the stage musical were omitted from the movie: "A Bushel and a Peck", "My Time of Day", "I've Never Been In Love Before", "More I Cannot Wish You", and "Marry the Man Today".

20th Century Fox acquired the film rights to the musical in early 2013 and was planning a remake.[91] In March 2019, TriStar Pictures acquired the remake rights.[92]

Casts of major productions

The following table shows the principal casts of the major productions of Guys and Dolls:

Casts of major productions
Original Broadway Production Original London Production 1955 Film 1976 Broadway Revival 1982 London Revival 1992 Broadway Revival 2005 London Revival 2008 Melbourne Production 2009 Broadway Revival
Sky Masterson Robert AldaJerry WayneMarlon BrandoJames RandolphIan CharlesonPeter GallagherEwan McGregorIan StenlakeCraig Bierko
Sister Sarah Brown Isabel BigleyLizbeth WebbJean SimmonsErnestine JacksonJulie CovingtonJosie de GuzmanJenna RussellLisa McCuneKate Jennings Grant
Nathan Detroit Sam LeveneFrank SinatraRobert GuillaumeBob HoskinsNathan LaneDouglas HodgeGarry McDonaldOliver Platt
Miss Adelaide Vivian BlaineNorma DonaldsonJulia McKenzieFaith PrinceJane KrakowskiMarina PriorLauren Graham
Nicely-Nicely Johnson Stubby KayeKen PageDavid HealyWalter BobbieMartyn EllisShane JacobsonTituss Burgess
Arvide Abernathy Pat RooneyErnest ButcherRegis ToomeyEmett "Babe" WallaceJohn NormingtonJohn CarpenterNiall BuggyRussell NewmanJim Ortlieb
Big Jule B.S. PullyLew HerbertB.S. PullyWalter WhiteJim CarterHerschel SparberSevan StephanMagda SzubanskiGlenn Fleshler
Harry the Horse Tom PediSheldon LeonardJohn RussellBill PatersonErnie SabellaNorman BowmanAdam MurphyJim Walton
Benny Southstreet Johnny SilverChristophe PierreBarrie RutterJ.K. SimmonsCory EnglishWayne Scott KermondSteve Rosen

Awards and honors

Original Broadway production
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1951 Tony Award Best Musical Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Robert Alda Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Isabel Bigley Won
Best Choreography Michael Kidd Won
Best Direction of a Musical George S. Kaufman Won
1965 New York City Center production
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1965 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Jerry Orbach Nominated
1976 Broadway revival
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1977 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Robert Guillaume Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Ernestine Jackson Nominated
Theatre World Award Ken Page Won
Tony Award Best Revival Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Robert Guillaume Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Ernestine Jackson Nominated
1982 London revival
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1982 Critics' Circle Theatre Award[93] Best Actor Bob Hoskins Won
Best Designer John Gunter Won
Evening Standard Award Best Director Richard Eyre Won
Laurence Olivier Award Best Musical of the Year Won
Best Actor in a Musical Bob Hoskins Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Julia McKenzie Won
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical David Healy Won
Best Director Richard Eyre Won
Best Set Design John Gunter Won
1992 Broadway revival
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1992 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival Won
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Nathan Lane Won
Peter Gallagher Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Faith Prince Won
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Walter Bobbie Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Jerry Zaks Won
Outstanding Choreography Christopher Chadman Nominated
Outstanding Set Design Tony Walton Won
Outstanding Costume Design William Ivey Long Won
Outstanding Lighting Design Paul Gallo Won
Tony Award Best Revival Won
Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical Nathan Lane Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Faith Prince Won
Josie de Guzman Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Jerry Zaks Won
Best Choreography Christopher Chadman Nominated
Best Scenic Design Tony Walton Won
Best Lighting Design Paul Gallo Nominated
1996 London revival
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1996 Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best Director Richard Eyre Won
1997 Laurence Olivier Award Best Actress in a Musical Imelda Staunton Nominated
Joanna Riding Nominated
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical Clive Rowe Won
2005 London revival
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2006 Laurence Olivier Award Outstanding Musical Production Won
Best Actor in a Musical Douglas Hodge Nominated
Ewan McGregor Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Jane Krakowski Won
Jenna Russell Nominated
Best Theatre Choreographer Rob Ashford Nominated
Best Sound Design Terry Jardine and Chris Full Nominated
Best Lighting Design Howard Harrison Nominated
2008 Australian production
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2008 Helpmann Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Marina Prior Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Shane Jacobson Won
Best Direction in a Musical Michael Grandage and Jamie Lloyd Nominated
Best Choreography in a Musical Rob Ashford Nominated
Best Sound Design Chris Full, John Scandrett and Nick Reich Nominated
2009 Broadway revival
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2009 Tony Award Best Revival of a Musical Nominated
Best Scenic Design Robert Brill Nominated
2015 London revival
Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2015 Laurence Olivier Award Best Musical Revival Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical David Haig Nominated
Jamie Parker Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Sophie Thompson Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical Gavin Spokes Nominated
Best Theatre Choreographer Carlos Acosta & Andrew Wright Nominated


There are numerous recordings of the show's score on compact disc. The most notable include:


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  95. Guys and Dolls: 1955 Movie Soundtrack 2007 Blue Moon Imports CD
  96. Guys & Dolls: 1955 Movie Soundtrack 101 Distribution 2009 CD
  97. Guys and Dolls: 1976 Studio Recording (1976 date is incorrect) 1992 CD
  98. Guys and Dolls: 1976 Broadway Revival Cast Recording 1991 CD
  99. Guys and Dolls: Original 1982 London National Theatre Cast EMI 2007 CD
  100. Guys and Dolls: Original 1982 London National Theatre Cast Music for Pleasure 1992 CD
  101. Guys and Dolls: 1992 Broadway Revival Cast 2009 CD
  102. Guys and Dolls: 1995 Complete Studio Cast Recording 1996 2-CD set


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  • Stempel, Larry (2010). Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater. New York: W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN 0-393-92906-X.
  • Suskin, Stephen (1990). Opening Night on Broadway: A Critical Quotebook of the Golden Era of the Musical Theatre. New York: Schrimmer Books. ISBN 0-02-872625-1.
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