Patrick Swayze will make his West End debut next month playing Nathan Detroit in Michael Grandage’s multi award-winning production of Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre – and, if the actor gets his way, he may be here awhile longer than the eight weeks advertised (See News, 1 Jun 2006).

Speaking at a press reception this morning at West End club Century, Swayze recalled his frustration when in 2003, returning to the stage after a 25-year absence to play Billy Flynn in the Broadway production of Chicago, he only felt that he was hitting all the right notes as his limited contract came to end. He doesn’t want his enjoyment curtailed this time around with Guys and Dolls: “I would like to stay with it until I feel I’ve found that comfortability (sic) and sense of play,” he said.

TO SCROLL THROUGH GUYS & DOLLS PHOTOS FROM TODAY’S PRESS RECEPTION WITH THE NEW CAST, CLICK ON THE "NEXT >" LINKS BELOW THE FOLLOWING FRAME.

Swayze’s main wish today is that the London drama critics, who he’s heard can be vicious, were coming later in his run rather than so early on. He imagines the press performance is “going to be like being shot out of a cannon… If you screw up, nobody can help you because it just moves too fast.” And he admitted that he does feel “an intimidation, a little fear factor about how you’re going to be judged but I think that just makes you work harder.”

The son of a choreographer, Swayze trained as a ballet dancer and appeared on stage in the Broadway productions of Goodtime Charley (1975) and Grease (1978) before finding international fame in Hollywood, most notably with the 1987 blockbuster film Dirty Dancing, in which he became a pin-up as holiday camp dance instructor Johnny Castle to Jennifer Grey’s teenaged Baby.

Asked today what his prediction is for the stage version of Dirty Dancing (See News, 24 Feb 2006), which receives its West End premiere at the Aldwych Theatre on 24 October 2006 (previews from 28 September), Swayze said: “It’s definitely going crazy everywhere it opens.” He attributes the success of “the movie that would not die” to the passion, and lack of ego, behind the original project. “When something works, it’s really about heart.”

As for Guys and Dolls, Swayze hailed it as “one of the best scores and best books ever written for musical theatre”. Though he’s never appeared in Frank Loesser’s 1950 classic before, he remembers fondly his mother choreographing a production in Houston when he was a child. He’s now looking forward to working opposite Claire Sweeney, who will play his long-suffering fiancée Miss Adelaide, in Grandage’s revival. The pair met for the first time last night. According to Swayze, “As soon as I looked in her eyes, I thought, this is going to be fun. She’s got a fabulous sense of play and I could just smell that she’s good at what she does.”

Swayze and Sweeney will co-star opposite Adam Cooper as Sky Masterson and Kelly Price as Sarah Brown, who stay on from the current cast of Guys and Dolls. Grandage’s production opened on 1 June 2005 (previews from 19 May) – with original principals Ewan McGregor (Sky), Jenna Russell (Sarah), Douglas Hodge (Nathan) and Jane Krakowski (Adelaide) - and is currently booking up to 30 December 2006.

Based on Damon Runyon’s short stories about New York gamblers and their girls in the 1940s, the musical was made into a 1953 Hollywood film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. Grandage’s revival, the first new production of Guys and Dolls in London for 23 years, is 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 by the Ambassador Theatre Group and Live Nation in association with the Donmar Warehouse.

- by Terri Paddock