Patrick Swayze faced the critics in his West End debut as Nathan Detroit in Michael Grandage’s multi award-winning revival of Guys and Dolls on Monday (7 August 2006, see News, 7 Aug 2006) at the Piccadilly Theatre, where he started performances – belatedly – on 27 July 2006 (See News, 24 Jul 2006).
The Dirty Dancing star postponed his debut after a chest infection caused him to miss rehearsals. At a press conference in June, Swayze – who originally trained as a ballet dancer - revealed concerns about facing London drama critics, who he’d heard can be vicious (See News, 1 Jun 2006). He said he expected his press night 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.”
Swayze stars alongside former Brookside actress Claire Sweeney as his long-suffering fiancé Miss Adelaide, as well as Adam Cooper and Kelly Price as Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown in Grandage’s version of Frank Loesser’s 1950 musical about New York gamblers and their girls.
While first night critics thought the heart-throb did a good job, all except one thought Swayze – and Sweeney – were outshone by their lesser-known co-stars. However, the toe-tapping fun of the production couldn’t help but get a general thumbs up.
Caroline Ansdell on Whatsonstage.com – “The Dirty Dancing star still has the moves and, judging by the cheers and wolf whistles, still has pulling power too, despite seeming (dare I say it?) just a tad too old. His approach to the character of Nathan Detroit is slightly too much of a caricature, but he certainly captures the fun of the musical comedy style with his big grin. His singing voice is good, and although it sounds untrained compared to the other principals, it suits the role…. Meanwhile, the less prominent characters are still dancing and singing up a storm, while the fantastic Kelly Price and Adam Cooper continue to charm as Sarah Brown and Sky Masterson. The Havana nightclub scene is the strongest in the show, and the subtle comedy, believable characters and excellent performances of these two really show the celebs how it should be done.”
Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard - “The legions of fans he has had since the career-making Dirty Dancing in 1987 will no doubt have the time of their lives seeing their man in the flesh and in a rather fetching trilby to boot. Yet lovers of show-stopping musical theatre performances will more likely nod politely in his direction and move on…. It was a smart move on the producers' part to use Swayze to swizzle up such a buzz of anticipation around a show that has already been running for 15 months. However the real star of the evening is not a high roller, but rather the holy roller Sarah Brown, leader of a demoralised Salvation Army mission. The outstanding Kelly Price, promoted from the chorus, has a wonderfully pure voice. Her look of growing delight as a whole realm of hitherto unknown sensual pleasures is revealed in a Havana bar is something to cherish…. Sarah and Sky are so much more convincing a couple than Nathan and Miss Adelaide (Claire Sweeney) that a fatal imbalance of audience affection arises.”
Elena Seymenliyska in the Daily Telegraph - “Swayze may be a funny-looking thing… But once he starts to sing - and better still, to dance - he sprinkles armfuls of magic dust all around. His powers work on his partners, too. Just as he transformed a dowdy high-school virgin into the hottest little dancer in summer camp in the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, Swayze works his magic on Claire Sweeney as Adelaide, the stripper who's been waiting 14 years for Nathan to make an honest woman of her. Watching Sweeney perform on her own is like browsing a lads' mag - too much boob, and then an urge to go wash your hands. But slip her between Swayze's arms, as in Nathan's swoon-song Adelaide, and Sweeney's Brookside Close brass gives way to true Broadway class. Swayze said they would "rock together", and they do…. The same cannot be said of Adam Cooper and Kelly Price, grown comfortable since the spring in their roles as Sky and his redeemer, mission doll Sarah Brown.”
Sam Marlowe in the Times – “The production, which opened in June last year, is still on beguiling form…. But there is a hole where the show’s heart should be — and that is the fault of the leading performances, Swayze’s among them…. his voice is pleasant enough. Nor does the dancing of this ballet-trained performer offer cause for complaint. But while his Nathan Detroit is loose-limbed and nimble, he lacks lightness of touch. Every gesture, every joke, appears overdeliberate and a shade mechanical; and there’s not the faintest trace of sexual chemistry between Swayze and Claire Sweeney’s similarly laboured and unconvincing Miss Adelaide…. it’s left to the much less established Kelly Price as Sarah Brown to supply the warmth and spontaneity that her three co-stars lack, which she does to an impressive degree.”
- by Caroline Ansdell