The ever-reliable entertainment factory that is The Mill at Sonning excels itself with a heart-warming, hilarious and always hugely enjoyable production of the American classic Guys and Dolls.

Following its big festive hits with My Fair Lady and High Society, this ambitious little theatre demonstrates once again that size hardly matters in the delivery of a major musical treat. On the contrary, The Mill’s very compactness turns out almost an advantage.

Though the chorus line is necessarily curtailed and the band – tucked away in an eyrie above the stage – is reduced to five, the compensation comes with the in-yer-face delivery that adds extra spice to the action. Just watch out for flying feet when the hoofing begins!

A rich gallery of roguish ruffians and their much-put-upon womenfolk are paraded in the show, which was adapted for the Broadway stage in 1950 from tales of New York lowlife penned by the humorist Damon Runyon.

The wit and ingenuity of Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’s book are more than matched by the brilliance of Frank Loesser’s songs, some of the best he ever wrote and including Luck Be a Lady, A Bushel and a Peck, and Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat.

As in the best shows of this genre, we are given not one but two pairs of lovers, whose up-and-down progress we observe as they head hesitantly to the happy ending that is marriage.

Very hesitantly in the case of gangland Mister Fixit Nathan Detroit who for 14 years has kept showgirl Adelaide at an exasperating remove from the altar.

Well, how’s a guy supposed to think of settling down with all those big league – and strictly illegal – crap games to organise?

Weasily in character and appearance though he is – as portrayed by Stephane Anelli – you nevertheless sense charm and panache enough to give corncrake- voiced Adelaide (Natalie Hope)) cause to lament – which she does, in attention-grabbing numbers, twice.

Meanwhile – in romantic interest plot number two – the smooth master gambler Sky Masterson (Richard Carson) has to overcome crucial differences over morality with the girl who seems destined for him.

She’s the bible-bashing Sergeant Sarah (Victoria Serra) of the Save a Soul Mission, for whom gambling in all forms is anathema.

Its practitioners can prove useful, however, to an outfit in desperate need of souls to save, and thereby avoid threatened disbandment of the branch by the General (Rebecca Bernice Amissah).

Read more: Nigel Havers brings ART to the Playhouse

So it’s off to the mission for rascals like the doltish Big Jule (Daniel Fletcher) and small-time gamblers Nicely Nicely (Oliver Jacobson), Benny (Felipe Bejarano) and Rusty (Ben Irish), who supply the principal comic interest in this well-managed show.

Congratulations to director and choreographer Joseph Pitcher, musical arranger Charlie Ingles and all involved.

  • Until February 23. Box office 0118 969 8000,
  • 4/5