Richard Eyre's much loved and critically praised production of Guys and Dolls will end its extended run at London's Royal National Theatre with the evening performance on Saturday, Nov. 22.
Laurence Olivier had originally planned to do Guys and Dolls at the National in 1970, and had himself wanted to play Nathan Detroit -- a role that Bob Hoskins was to take on when the musical was finally mounted 12 years hence -- but the production had to be put on hold when he became ill.
Then in late 1981, Eyre signed on at the National as an associate director and Peter Hall -- who had succeeded Olivier as artistic director of the theatre in 1973 -- was overjoyed when Eyre suggested Guys and Dolls (instead of "a minor Ostrovksy" or an exhumed "Belgium masterpiece," Eyre has said with characteristic humor) for his first directing assignment.
Critics have praised the big, extravagant look of the production, which was in part inspired, Eyre writes in the show's program essay, by Andreas Feininger's photographs of New York in the '40s and Rudi Stern's book Let There Be Neon.
The closing night cast for Guys and Dolls includes Imelda Staunton as Miss Adelaide (Staunton first portrayed Miss Adelaide in the '80s, when she replaced Julia McKenzie in the original RNT production) Colin Stinton as Nathan Detroit (Stinton started out last December as G&D's Lt. Brannigan and during the summer run replaced Henry Goodman as Nathan), Joanna Riding as Sarah Brown, Clarke Peters as Sky Masterson, and Clive Rowe as Nicely-Nicely Johnson. Rowe, who is a dead ringer for the popular American weatherman/TV personality Al Roker and who played Harry in the West End Company a few seasons back, was honored earlier this year with an Olivier Award for Best Featured Actor for his Nicely-Nicely -- and he has had the distinction of turning normally staid British theatregoers into on-their-feet cheering fans with his no-holds-barred "Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat." This reporter has observed him do four, five, and seven ovations of the number on three separate occasions -- and each time the audience has invariably wanted more.
Always leave them wanting more. It's fitting that Eyre both began and ended his tenure at the National with Guys and Dolls. There aren't too many directors out there who can dazzle 'em not only with Frank Loesser's musical theatre masterpiece but with dramas like Tom Stoppard's The Invention of Love and David Hare's Amy's View.
-- By Rebecca Paller