The curse of sniffly Miss Adelaide hits poor Ms Lancashire

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The Independent Culture

In other words, just from waiting around/
for that plain little band of gold/
A person can develop a cold.

In the musical Guys And Dolls, the character Miss Adelaide is afflicted by chronic sniffs and sneezes. Eventually she discovers why. A cold, the medical textbook reveals, can be a psychosomatic response to spending 14 years engaged to be married to a gambler who shows no signs of tying the knot, as outlined in the song "Adelaide's Lament".

Sadly, Sarah Lancashire, who took over the role in the West End last month, has a cold for real and it has nothing to do with her marital status.

The former Coronation Street star was struck down with a chest infection before the matinee on Wednesday last week and has been unable to perform since, a spokesman said yesterday.

After missing about a dozen performances, however, it is hoped she will return to the role at the beginning of the week. "She should be back on Monday or Tuesday," the spokesman said.

It has been denied that her absence from the Piccadilly Theatre in London has anything to do with stage fright.

Lancashire, who appeared in the West End musical Blood Brothers just before landing the role of Raquel in Coronation Street, won rave reviews from the critics after taking over from Jane Krakowski, who starred in the television series Ally McBeal, at the beginning of December.

The Daily Telegraph said she "gives a deliciously funny and poignant performance", while the Sunday Express described her as "a revelation".

The Evening Standard said Lancashire "imbues the adenoidal Miss Adelaide ... with welcome doses of love and life - as well as a strong singing voice - and makes you wonder why it has taken Nathan Detroit (Nigel Lindsay) 14 long years to make an honest woman of her".

Terri Paddock, founder of the whatsonstage.com website, said theatre-lovers using the website message board had expressed disappointment at Lancashire's absence. "But they haven't been up in arms about it," she added. If it had been Ewan McGregor missing 10 performances we would not have heard the end of it."

Sickly stars, however, are a worry for theatre producers. In September, two of the young actors who play Michael, the best friend of Billy Elliot in the musical, fell sick and the third actor lined up for the part was 300 miles away in Cumbria. In the end, Liam Mower, 13, who normally plays Billy, stepped into the role with just one hour's rehearsal.

Martine McCutcheon was plagued by health problems when she took on the lead role in My Fair Lady. She was struck down by a virus before the show even opened.

Other stars to have missed West End performances include Stephen Fry, who suffered from depression after receiving bad notices in the Simon Gray play Cell Mates in 1995. He abandoned the production and caught the first ferry to Belgium. He ended up paying damages to the producer, Duncan Weldon.

Daniel Day-Lewis has never returned to theatre since walking off mid-performance in Hamlet at the National Theatre. He became convinced he was talking to a ghost of his father, the poet Cecil Day-Lewis, and was said to be suffering from exhaustion.

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