The final instalment of Star Wars, in which Ewan McGregor plays Obi-Wan Kenobi, may not have earned great reviews last month, but producers are hoping that the Scottish screen star will wow the critics tonight (Tuesday 1 June 2005) when he makes his musical stage debut playing gambling chancer Sky Masterson in Michael Grandage’s long-awaited revival of classic Broadway musical Guys and Dolls at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre (See News, 8 Nov 2004).

McGregor has not been seen on the London stage since the 1999 Hampstead Theatre production of Little Malcolm and His Struggle Against the Eunuchs, which transferred to the West End. He’s best known internationally for his big screen credits such as Star Wars, Big Fish, Down With Love, Black Hawk Down, Little Voice, A Life Less Ordinary, Trainspotting, Rogue Trader, Brassed Off and Shallow Grave.

McGregor has previously demonstrated his singing and dancing skills, albeit on screen, in Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film Moulin Rouge, which had also at one point been tipped for a stage crossover (See The Goss, 5 Dec 2001). He has been taking private singing lessons in preparation for Guys and Dolls.

At a press launch two weeks into the rehearsal period in April, the film star explained why he wanted to return to theatre (See News, 13 Apr 2005). “I think it’s really important for actors to work on the stage.” He said that, rehearsals for the musical up to that point, “been more fulfilling than any movie. Movies are so draining. They pull away from the actor, but theatre just fills you up. I needed my fix.”

In addition to McGregor, Guys and Dolls stars Jenna Russell as McGregor’s Salvation Army love interest Sarah Brown (See News, 19 Jan 2005), and Douglas Hodge and Ally McBeal’s Jane Krakowski as fellow gambler Nathan Detroit and his long-suffering girlfriend Miss Adelaide (See News, 11 Jan 2005).

The cast also features Martyn Ellis (as Nicely Nicely Johnson), Niall Buggy (Arvide), Gaye Brown (General Cartwright) and Sevan Stephan (Big Jule). Also in the cast are Norman Bowman, Patrick Brennan, Lyndsey Britton, Darren Carnell, Ben Clare, Matthew Cole, Cory English, Liz Cooper Gee, Charlotte Gorton, Zoe Hardman, Madeleine Harland, Nicola Keen, Graham MacDuff, Andrew Playfoot, Kelly Price, Jo Servi, Spencer Soloman, Summer Strallen, Suzanne Toase and Sebastian Torkia.

Guys and Dolls has music and lyrics by Frank Loesser, and a book by Abe Burrows and Jo Swerlin, based on the short stories by Damon Runyon about New York low-life in the 1940s. Loesser’s score includes classics such as “Adelaide’s Lament”, “I’ve Never Been in Love Before”, “Sue Me”, “Luck Be a Lady”, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and the title song.

The “musical fable of Broadway” first reached London in 1953 when it ran for 555 performances at the Coliseum. It was made into a 1953 Hollywood film starring Marlon Brandon, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. In 1982, Richard Eyre mounted a multi award-winning production at the National, which was revived in 1996. This will be the first new London production in 23 years.

Directed by Grandage, the Donmar Warehouse’s artistic director, Guys and Dolls is the first Donmar musical originated outside of its own 250-seat auditorium (See News, 17 Jun 2004). It’s designed by Christopher Oram, with choreography by Rob Ashford, musical supervision by Jae Alexander, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Terry Jardine and Chris Full. It’s produced in the West End by the Ambassadors Theatre Group and David Ian for Clear Channel Entertainment, in association with the Donmar’s own in-house production team.

- by Terri Paddock