The newest production of Guys & Dolls at the Donmar Warehouse is noted for marking the West End musical debuts of Ewan McGregor as Sky Masterson and Jane Krakowski as Miss Adelaide. Also notable are the costumes by Christopher Oram, who went back to basics to dress Nathan Detroit, Sky, Big Julie, Adelaide, and the Hot Box girls in clothes that would truly represent the underbelly of New York City's hoodlums some 70 years ago. “We wanted to find a language for it that was going back to basics rather than indulging all of our Technicolor fantasies,” he says. “We wanted to go back and see what [Damon] Runyon found in the world around him and what it was that Frank Loesser found in Runyon in New York in the early 20th Century.”
The basics that Oram and director Michael Grandage went back to were an emphasis on making the characters real people. “We wanted to find a vocabulary for that world that was about real people who were gangsters and were down on the heel,” Oram explains. “Bless her, Adelaide is a stripper. She's not working on Broadway; she's working so far off-Broadway she's practically in another state. But she still has to behave like a lead in a musical comedy. The biggest brief was that we didn't want it to look like a cartoon. There are plenty of shows out there with all singing, all dancing in a four-color, happy old world.” Oram and Grandage pulled back from the National Theatre production's version as well as the Broadway revival directed by Jerry Zaks to treat the new version in a “Donmar Warehouse style” without all the showbiz pizzazz.
As far as choosing his palette, Oram wanted the colors to be subdued and hark back to more nostalgic time “when blokes wore suits and hats and treated their girlfriends both well and badly. It's Runyonland. As such we wanted to give it a sepia, nostalgic quality, like old photographs. It was the same with the guys' suits, nothing DayGlo and bright; it's brown, black, and white.” When the action shifts to Havana, Oram added an explosion of color as he did for the girls' Hot Box costumes. “I think people have more sophisticated visual palettes these days and don't need to be told where to look and we can afford to treat them with a little bit more respect. I didn't see that there was a need to over-egg the pudding in telling the audience how to think because the characters are so strong and so vividly drawn.”