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McGregor's musical gamble pays rich dividends



Review by Jack Foley

THEY came to see Ewan McGregor but the audience had plenty more to cheer about after witnessing the crowd-pleasing revival of Guys & Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre on Saturday, June 25, 2005.

Everything about Michael Grandage's convivial take on Frank Loesser's classic play works a treat, from the lively dance routines to the witty camaraderie that exists between every cast member.

It's a terrific night out at the theatre and one which truly sets the West End alight, effortlessly justifying its reputation as the hottest ticket in town at present.

McGregor is, of course, the production's biggest draw - a charismatic performer who has emerged as a major box office force in his own right following the success of films such as Star Wars and Trainspotting.

Yet he has gambled well on choosing to make Guys & Dolls his West End musical debut, surrounding himself with a talented ensemble who more than do justice to one of Loesser's best-loved works.

Joining him on-stage are the likes of former Ally McBeal star, Jane Krakowski, Born and Bred star, Jenna Russell, and established stage star, Douglas Hodge - all of whom prove adept at stamping their own personality on proceedings.

McGregor plays Sky Masterson, the warm-hearted gambler who bets that he can take Russell's Bible-thumping Salvation Army girl, Sarah Brown, to Havana.

While Hodge is Nathan Detroit, a fellow gambler desperate to organise a face-saving crap game while trying to avoid finally getting married to Krakowski's love-struck Miss Adelaide.

The fun is in watching how these two lovable rogues fall for their respective women and come to see the error of their ways.

At a little over two and a half hours, Guys & Dolls fairly zips along, placing a smile on the face from the outset that frequently gives way to laughter and cheering.

Several of the set pieces were met with thunderous applause that were a tribute to the breath-taking choreography of Rob Ashford and the welcome familiarity of Loesser's songs (all of which were brilliantly delivered).

McGregor shone when called upon to perform the rousing Luck be a Lady, while Krakowski performed two memorably risque numbers in Bushel and a Peck and Take Back Your Mink.

Both appeared to be having fun, with Krakowski especially cheeky as the ditsy Miss Adelaide, a kooky yet adorable romantic foil for the put-upon Detroit.

Yet McGregor, too, looked more comfortable than many critics have given him credit for, exuding an easy-going charm that translates well to the audience.

His chemistry with Russell is perfect, while his singing and dancing doesn't look out of place with the talented performers surrounding him.

Of the support, Martyn Ellis is probably the pick of the bunch as Nicely Nicely Johnson, another of the gamblers, whose late rendition of Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat is one of the night's big show-stoppers.

Yet there is so much to see and enjoy that a second trip is almost essential - not least the Havana sequence, when the stage comes alive with the hot-blooded rhythms of Cuba.

Guys & Dolls is, therefore, as safe a bet for a terrific night out as you could possibly wish for. It delivers its thrills in spades.

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