This was a traditional interpretation of the 1950 musical but all the better for that. It took no liberties with costume or characterisation but exploited the basic qualities of an enduring and much loved musical. It has the requisite of 3 great songs, a strong plot line and an interesting litany of colourful characters. It also depicts the attraction of those with a safe life-style to that of an unreliable gambler.
Jamie Parker is as good a Sky Masterson as I have seen. He has a strong voice allied to capable acting and dancing talent. Clare Foster is equally good as Sarah but Sophie Thompson a touch too strident as Adelaide. Peter Polycarpou also plays Nathan Detroit traditionally but well. None of these are household names and one hopes that, if the musical does transfer, the producer and director will retain the cast and not go for a name. Theatre can be like football in this respect. This was clearly a happy cast but bring in a big name on bigger wages then the chemistry and team spirit will suffer. The choreography and orchestra were also first rate.
A word of praise too for the revamped Chichester Festival Theatre. After visiting the ageing Theatre Royal in Brighton, I was pleased to be in a modern air-conditioned space with comfy chairs and good sight lines. Even the programme with articles on Damon Runyan, the genesis of the musical and New York was well above average.
It’s little wonder that Chichester has such a high reputation. Driving through the picturesque downs is far more attractive than Shaftesbury Avenue or the concrete fortification that is the South Bank complex. Parking is easy and there are decent restaurants nearby, Murrays at the Ship Hotel being Daphne Colthard’s favourite. It’s no surprise that the auditorium was packed.