It's bold programming by Chichester to schedule a revival of this great musical. Richard Eyre's barnstorming 1982 production is still talked about and set a high standard, while several recent major revivals have also proved outstanding. Happily this production, while not hitting the dizzy heights achieved at the National, is a fine addition to the roster of Chichester musicals.
That's thanks to a high calibre production team; American director Gordon Greenberg is steeped in musicals and co-choreographers Carlos Acosta - who gets the chance to draw on his Cuban heritage with an energetic Havana number - and Andrew Wright give us a host of high-octane, inventive dance routines, especially at the dice game in the sewers.
But the production's highlight is Sophie Thompson's Adelaide, a richly comic performance touched with genuine pathos. Adopting a peculiar cramped-up style of walking, Thompson's Adelaide is a woman almost worn down by the lack of commitment from Peter Polycarpou's ebulliant Nathan Detroit.
Clare Foster is a nicely strait-laced Sarah Brown, coming to terms to with her infatuation with Sky Masterson and being warmed by the first stirrings of love.
Polycarpou gives us a hyperactive Detroit, torn between his love for Adelaide and the need to make another buck. Jamie Parker has a pleasant singing voice but his Masterson lacks the darker side that you'd expect to find in such a long-term denizen of the demi-monde. He's not alone in that: Harry Morrison's Nicely-Nicely Johnson looks more like a children's TV presenter, meaning that "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" doesn't quite have the emotional punch that it should.
There's plenty of talk right now about New York being gentrified and sanitised; it's hard to see how Damon Runyon's hustlers, grifters and minor hoods would fit into the modern metropolis. But rather too many of this cast would feel at home - only Nic Greenshields' towering Big Jule gives any sense that these characters occupy a world that comes alive between midnight and four.
That's a minor quibble. Loesser's wonderful songs, Acosta and Wright's vibrant choreography and, above all, Thompson's stand-out performance, deliver plenty of punch and a great adornment to the newly revamped Festival Theatre.