The lead guy and doll have been re-cast for the fourth time in the 14 months that Guys and Dolls has been running and even if Michael Grandage’s gleaming, black and white take on Frank Loesser’s Broadway classic is now straying into Chicago territory in the celebrity casting stakes with two sometime alumni of that production (from US and UK companies of the show), there’s still enough light, shade and contrast across the company to provide plenty of redeeming colour.
Grandage, who once did duty as Chicago’s resident director, may have inadvertently also created a successor to that sensational long-running revival. Not only does it have a similarly lean and stripped-back visual aesthetic but also Rob Ashford’s choreography likewise galvanises it with movement and sex, rather than emotion and sets.
In the process, it still comes up fresh and sparkling, even with a potentially disruptive new pair of leads. Film star Patrick Swayze is not quite the fish out of water that one might have feared as Nathan Detroit, fixer of the oldest established permanent floating crap game in New York; he began his career, after all, as a Broadway hoofer.
But that was more than 30 years ago, and though he may therefore be forgiven for being a little hazy on stage timing and technique, he’s not lazy. In fact, he’s rather nervously over-active, keeping his hands in perpetual motion and walking with a cocky strut. But even if his musculature appears diminished, he still has a boyish bashfulness. No doubt he will become more comfortable onstage as time goes on.
Claire Sweeney’s arrival as Detroit’s “well-known fiancee” of 14 years, Miss Adelaide, however, is more difficult to enjoy. She may give the singing a lot of welly but misses out almost entirely on the comic potential of this funniest of musical comedy characters. There’s little sign of the psychosomatic, let alone physical, symptoms of the bad, bad cold she’s been suffering from for years of remaining single, just in the legal sense.
The centre of the production duly subtly shifts to the other romance, now keenly articulated by Adam Cooper’s Sky and Kelly Price’s Sister Sarah, with the shimmering radiance of their respective movement and voices.