The colourful characters created by American writer and newspaperman Damon Runyon came to life at Wolvercote Village Hall on Tuesday as the North Oxford Youth Theatre staged the Broadway production of Guys and Dolls, with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser. Based on two of Runyon’s classic short stories and set in New York, this show tells the tale of an ace gambler, Sky Masterson, who falls for a pretty Salvation Army ‘doll’ Sarah Brown. But that’s just the half of this entertaining musical.

How does Sky get to meet Sarah? It is the result of a bet with wheeler-dealer and crap game organiser Nathan Detroit, who is trying to raise the cash to pay for a venue for a big game. Sky (Josh Morton) and Sarah (Eve Winterbottom) are from opposite sides of the track - but find themselves attracted to each other. Nathan (played by Joe Chanter) also has a love interest, his long-standing and long-suffering squeeze Miss Adelaide (Emma Harvey) who hates the way he makes his dough, but still loves him dearly - and has been doing so for 14 unrequited years.

The fate of the two couples is interwoven with Nathan’s bid to get his game organised, and Sarah’s bid to make her Salvation Army mission a success, by saving as many sinners as possible. Sky lends a hand and . . . well you will have to see the show to find out what happens. But, being a Broadway musical, there is a happy ending - and I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that.

The stage bursts with Runyonesque street-life from the opening scenes - and is often filled to bursting point by members of the show’s big cast. The leading actors, Josh Morton, Eve Winterbottom, Joe Chanter and Emma Harvey are all excellent - but Emma catches the eye with her confident portrayal of the star of the Hot Club, Miss Adelaide. Her delivery of Adelaide’s Lament is convincing and entrancing. Now in its 51st year, the North Oxford Youth Theatre often uncovers hidden local talent - and Emma is the latest in this long role of honour.

Another highlight of the show was Eve Winterbottom’s enthusiastic performance of If I Were a Bell - as a slightly squiffy Sarah Brown discovers the delights of Barcardi and Cuban nightlife with Sky by her side.

But there’s more. Jack Grieve and Ben Lipsey have a nice double-act going on as Nathan Detriot’s left-and-right-hand men Nicely-Nicely Johnson and Benny Southwest, while Rob Fletcher is a terrific Harry the Horse (if you imagine him being played by Woody Allen) and Adam Harvey is suitably menacing as the show’s tough guy, Big Jule from Chicago, a gangster with some very dodgy dice.

Producer Peter Bridges gets the very best out of his young (some very young) and talented cast - the ensemble numbers, such as Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat, are a genuine triumph.

North Oxford Youth Theatre’s production of Guys and Dolls continues at Wolvercote Village Hall until Friday. For tickets call 01865 376617. And if the show makes anyone unfamiliar with the work of Damon Runyon seek it out, that is a real bonus.