Tag Archives: Celinde Schoenmaker



Bridge Theatre

GUYS & DOLLS at the Bridge Theatre


“a captivating, energetic show that you’d bet on to run and run.”

The Bridge Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls opened a year ago to rave reviews and now a new cast continues the party. This show really does feel like a knees up: my cheeks were aching by the interval and even I was persuaded to join in with a celebratory wiggle during the finale. Even if you have never seen this 1950 musical before, the immersive experience draws you into a world of gamblers, showgirls and fervent missionaries, and you will leave humming the excellent songs.

Part of what draws the audience in is the Bridge Theatre set (Bunny Christie), which includes seating on four sides of an immersive area which you can roam around with a standing ticket. Before the start of the show, the central area is laid out like a street map, vendors sell real hot dogs and pretzels from stands to the audience, and the ensemble circulate puffing on stage cigarettes. Bright neon and coloured bulbs (lighting design Paule Constable) decorate hanging signs that transport you to a busy Broadway, New York with the attention to detail on the road markings and sewer covers apparent up close. The immersive audience is encouraged to sit at diner tables and interact with the ensemble as the bustle increases. Given the geography of the room, the orchestra is not in a pit: it is elevated to the gallery, and flanked with more of the garish bulbs which shows off the pink glittery music stands and snazzy audience jackets. This is a show that’s not afraid to show how it operates, but that only adds to the magic.



And what magic. Especially when standing, the action is happening literally centimetres away. The acting therefore must be – and is – flawless. Emotions have to be portrayed both small and large for the audiences closer and those further away. Dancing (Arlene Phillips with James Cousins) from the talented supporting actors is super sharp. I loved the rowdy carrot routine from the showgirls in the Hot Box club. The gamblers in the crap game routines are totally committed even on narrow stage blocks, and the hat-ography is impressive.

Guys and Dolls is known for being the epitome of the comic musical, and the jokes here are mined expertly by the able cast. There is great physicality throughout from all characters, especially the anchor of the piece, Owain Arthur as Nathan Detroit. Timmika Ramsay also has perfect comic timing as Miss Adelaide, the aspiring wife and showgirl, intent on reforming her fiance. Ramsay is wonderful in the role; her voice is powerful and rich, even when singing sitting down, and with a cold!

“This refreshed cast does their material justice, and then some”

As a foil to this couple, Celinde Schoenmaker is excellent as the uptight Sarah, leader of the Mission for Lost Souls. She has an incredibly easy high register, and is able to inject character into her songs as well as excellent vocals. Watching her lose all abandon in Havana is a sight to behold – very reminiscent of having one too many drinks at a wedding. George Ioannides completes the quad at the centre of the story, again excellent vocally. He embodies the smoothness of a professional gambler, but with enough heart that his love story makes sense.

The supporting cast were also excellent, especially Jonathan Andrew Hume as Nicely Nicely Johnson. He leads the rollicking number Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat which is the biggest song and rightly gets multiple reprises.



As in previous immersive shows at the Bridge, blocks rise and fall through different scenes and all these potential hazards are well shepherded by stage hands dressed as cops. They get a well-deserved ovation for calmly co-ordinating the standing audience through the piece, as well as managing props and creating runways to the stage blocks for actors. Even watching the stage hands’ work up close doesn’t break the focus: it’s not often that you get to feel like you’re standing in the wings.

Nicholas Hytner’s strong direction combined with the amazing set and choreography bring out the very best of Damon Runyon’s characters and Frank Loesser’s much-loved music and lyrics. This refreshed cast does their material justice, and then some. In fact, Guys and Dolls could only be improved by serving up every audience member a mid-show dulce de leche, but in every other way, this is a captivating, energetic show that you’d bet on to run and run.

GUYS & DOLLS at the Bridge Theatre

Reviewed on 11th March 2024

by Rosie Thomas

Photography by Manuel Harlan





More five-star reviews:

LUCY AND FRIENDS | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | February 2024
STANDING AT THE SKY’S EDGE | ★★★★★ | Gillian Lynne Theatre | February 2024
THE BIG LIFE | ★★★★★ | Theatre Royal Stratford East | February 2024
HADESTOWN | ★★★★★ | Lyric Theatre | February 2024
NELKEN | ★★★★★ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | February 2024
WHEN YOU PASS OVER MY TOMB | ★★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | February 2024
HILLS OF CALIFORNIA | ★★★★★ | Harold Pinter Theatre | February 2024
SELF-RAISING | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | February 2024
JEFFREY BERNARD IS UNWELL | ★★★★★ | The Coach & Horses | February 2024
COWBOIS | ★★★★★ | Royal Court Theatre | January 2024



Click here to see our Recommended Shows page


Marry Me A Little


Online | The Barn Theatre

Marry Me A Little

Marry Me A Little

Online via barntheatre.org.uk

Reviewed – 18th November 2020



“this exquisite production still bubbles with hope”


The year 2020 will be remembered, for many, as the year of outtakes. Our plans – and in some cases our hopes and dreams – strewn on the cutting room floor. It seems timely, then, to be reminded of the song-cycle, “Marry Me A Little”, which comprises, in the main, a collection of Stephen Sondheim numbers that were cut from some of his most noted shows – particularly ‘Follies’ and ‘A Little Night Music’. Sondheim was a master of the ‘could-have-been-should-have-been’ love song; a theme that pulses through this show and resonates all the more as we approach our own individual winter of discontent and isolation.

The two anonymous characters are alone, in their own New York apartments. Initially, it is not completely clear whether they are an estranged couple or merely strangers, but they both share a burning desire to reconnect somehow. The show could just as easily be titled ‘Two Fairy Tales’, the opening number which is sung with a melancholic optimism that sets the scene for the next sixty minutes. Devoid of any plot and dialogue, the show is carried by Rob Houchen and Celinde Schoenmaker who undeniably give real depth to a fairly narrow concept. The two beautiful voices on display lavish extra layers of meaning and poignancy onto the lyrics, while their harmonies unite their separation. While knowing little about them you do, in fact, care quite deeply.

Kirk Jameson’s production brings the narrative into the Tinder Age, the pair swiping texts and images on their phones as they sweep through the numbers. The split lives are neatly conveyed by the split set and split screen backdrop. But the focus is always on the music. Stripped back to just Arlene McNaught’s piano accompaniment the songs’ lyrical content is pushed centre stage and it is a pure delight to hear the richness of Sondheim’s libretto delivered with comparable splendour by Houchen and Schoenmaker. From the Jazz Age, innuendo laden, pastiche of ‘Can That Boy Foxtrot!’ and the yearning harmonies of ‘Who Could Be Blue?’ – both cut from “Follies”; through to the familiar ‘Marry Me A Little’ from “Company”; and the relatively unknown but hauntingly beautiful ‘The Girls of Summer’. The show packs in nearly twenty of Sondheim’s compositions in just one hour, closing with another number that never initially made the grade – the aptly titled ‘It Wasn’t Meant To Happen’ – steeped in yearning, regret and nostalgia.

A nostalgia that is sadly brought to the fore watching an online show of such a performance. Recorded with a socially distanced audience before the second lockdown, the sense of loss is unavoidable. Musical revues of this kind never fully translate to the small screen. “… The champagne was flat, the timing was wrong…” Sondheim’s closing lyrics tell us. Yet this exquisite production still bubbles with hope. Like this collection of songs that has eventually made it onto the stage, we too can all pick up the debris of this disastrous year and build something memorable.

In the meantime: “So what can you do on a Saturday night alone?” sing Houchen and Schoenmaker early on in the show. And straight away you know the answer.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Eve Dunlop


Marry Me A Little

Online via barntheatre.org.uk from 19th to 22nd November


Recently reviewed by Jonathan:
Henry V | ★★★★ | The Maltings | August 2020
St Anne Comes Home | ★★★★ | St Paul’s Church Covent Garden | August 2020
A Hero Of Our Time | ★★★★ | Stone Nest | September 2020
Buyer and Cellar | ★★★★ | Above the Stag | October 2020
The Great Gatsby | ★★★★★ | Immersive LDN | October 2020
The Last Five Years | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | October 2020
The Off Key | ★★★ | White Bear Theatre | October 2020
What a Carve Up! | ★★★★★ | Online | October 2020
Little Wars | ★★★★ | Online | October 2020
Right Left With Heels | ★★★★ | Online | November 2020


Click here to see our most recent reviews