Brenda and I recently went to see “Guys and Dolls” at the Royal Exchange Theatre. For those not familiar with the musical, it’s set in the New York underworld of the 1920s and 30s (based on stories by Damon Runyon from that time). It was a terrific production – colourful costumes, a clever set, some fantastic choreography, and some great music, including famous numbers like “Sit down, you’re rocking the boat” and “Luck be a lady tonight”. There are some great characters in it as well, with names like Nicely-Nicely Johnson, Sky Masterson, Harry the Horse, and Rusty Charlie. The cast of characters are mostly either gamblers/gangsters or Salvation Army members, which makes for an interesting combination. One gambler, Sky Masterson, falls in love with Sergeant Sarah Brown, from the Salvation Army Mission. While another, Nathan Detroit, continues to let down his long-term, and very patient, fiancée Adelaide. In the end, both couples either marry or are about to. It’s a happy show, even though the setting is far from salubrious.
Reflecting on it afterwards, one of the lovely things about it is the idea that people can change. In fact, in the second act, Sarah Brown and Adelaide run into each other, commiserate with each other about their unreliable boyfriends, and then resolve to marry their men anyway and reform them later! “Marry the Man Today”, is the title of the song they sing together. Whether that’s always good advice is another thing! But it’s a reminder for me of the very important truth that no one is beyond redemption, and that there’s good in everyone, and that good will emerge when it’s given a chance and the right circumstances. Above the Salvation Army mission is a sign saying Jesus Saves. He certainly does, and he finds wonderful and often surprising ways to do it too!