THE most enlivening, cheerful place to be in town this week is undoubtedly Ilkley Playhouse. From the moment you enter theatre and glimpse the carefully positioned solitary actor, ready to spring into action and then hear the excellent, richly toned band strike up, you are in no doubt that you are in for a great night.

Guys and Dolls, Frank Loesser’s New York-set musical tells the tale of a gang of hardened gamblers and their molls, and the relationship that grows between them and a citadel of Salvation Army, determined to bring sinners to repent.

Director, David Kirk, has produced an incredibly slick show with a large cast of talented actors. The overture introduces all the clearly-defined characters from the outset - a stylised game of dice, sashaying good time girls, a marching band of salvationists.

The challenging opening number – Fugue for Tinhorns – an incredibly complex song with three distinct threads to it, is handled with real skill by Phil Marston (Rusty Charlie), Adam Gregory (Nicely Nicely) and Will Sadley (Benny Southstreet). Their meeting with Nathan Detroit (Colin Waterman) starts the ball rolling – or the dice shaking – as they try to find a location for their high stakes ‘Craps’ game whilst evading the law enforcing eyes of Lt Brannigan.

This challenge, in turn, presents another for Nathan Detroit as he tries to hide his gang involvement from the incredibly tolerant and forgiving Miss Adelaide who has been waiting for fourteen years to progress from fiancée to wife. Miss Adelaide is a role which requires immense comic timing and the ability to convey a character through song and Jane Collins does this brilliantly. Her renditions of Adelaide’s laments are both touching and hilarious and she rightly brings the house down. The relationship which develops between her and Nathan Detroit is one of utter delight.

This being a show featuring gamblers, it should come as no surprise that another relationship is the result of a bet. Sky Masterson (James Pegg) is challenged to try and persuade Salvation Army leader Sarah Brown (Veronica La Vie) on an exotic date – almost as a dare. Perhaps then the inevitable happens and he wins love as well. The beautiful number ‘I’ve never been in love before’ is sung touchingly and innocently and their romance is entirely convincing.

The joy of a musical is that it isn’t only dependent on the actors in lead roles and the supporting cast in this show bring a huge amount of energy to their roles – the fabulous Hot Box girls who hoof it up before slipping seamlessly into their Sally Army outfits and the dice throwers, perform in wonderful songs like – ‘Sit down you’re rocking the boat’ create great highlights, producing wonderful harmonies and making toe-tapping irresistible.

David Keighley’s down-town black set with its illuminated signs offers plenty of scope for filling it with colour and spark and when the doors open at the back to reveal the brilliant band, directed by Ian Sapiro, it is a very special moment indeed.

Choreographed by Ted Oxley Kirk, it is impossible not to mention the stunning dance break performed by Alfie Harris, whose balletic and gymnastic routine will make you want to rise to your feet to applaud.

This truly winter-warming show is on until Saturday 21st Jan and tickets are becoming the proverbial hot cakes. Make the wheel of fortune spin in your favour!