West End Review: 'Guys & Dolls'

West End Review: 'Guys & Dolls'

Hayley Green

  • OnStage U.K. Critic

Last weekend I got the chance to see Guys and Dolls, which is currently playing at the Phoenix Theatre in London’s West End, though it’s run has been cut short and it is closing this weekend, 4 months earlier than scheduled (August 21st). Although this musical has had great reviews, it’s never been one that I thought ‘I must rush to see this’ but I have to say, I’m really glad I saw it before it closed, and to make it all the better Sydney born Hollywood star Rebel Wilson is currently playing Miss Adelaide! 

I didn’t know much of the story line before I went, but I have to say it is a very slick and classy take on the musical, which first premiered in Broadway in 1950.  The current London show is now on its third set of lead actors, having started at the Savoy Theatre last year, and there are some wonderful performances throughout. Well-seasoned West End star Oliver Tompsett, who has appeared in the likes of We Will Rock You and Wicked takes on the role of gambler Skye Masterson. He plays it with wit, heaps of charm, swagger, and amazing vocals to match. His rendition of ‘Luck be a Lady Tonight’ was stunning- helped by the fact that it had just followed an amazingly well stylized ‘Craps Game’ routine by the male ensemble, which was choreographed, like the rest of the show by Carlos Acosta. 

The choreography in this show is stunning, and the big routines are effortlessly performed by all the ensemble members, although even Rebel herself gets in on a few numbers, and this is what makes the show so special. A Musical like this has the potential to become a little dated but is kept fresh and alive by such things as the dance routines, the actor’s interpretations on roles, and also the set. The amount of scenery is actually quite minimalistic- a newspaper hut, some shoe shine chairs, a mission room, but the backdrop to this show is eye catching, and utilised so well for each scene. The backdrop is a series of old fashioned advertising boards which light up as needed, and move smoothly when required, they certainly add to the charm of the show, and make it more visually interesting for the audience. 

Now of course, I couldn’t forget to mention the current main attraction herself, Rebel Wilson, who has seemed to give a boost to perhaps slow summer sales or ‘the show is closing soon it can’t be worth seeing’ attitude of some. Now, going with an open mind, not knowing the characters well, I had no idea of the character or of how I would like to see her played. For example, having seen Les Miserables over twenty times, I have certain opinions on how I like certain characters to be played. Rebel is known for her OTT personality, and her humorous roles in Hollywood films such as Pitch Perfect 1 and 2, she also had a cameo in the Ab Fab Movie which came out a couple of months ago here in the UK, but I wasn’t sure how she would slot into a show with seasoned West End performers. It is safe to say, among the female performers, she stole the show for me. I can imagine her interpretation was very different to her predecessors, well known stars of stage and screen Sophie Thompson, and Samantha Spiro. Both of these actresses are older than Rebel, and it’s clear to see from reviews online that they would have played in in a different way.  Rebel played the role without apology, with an in your face, ‘I’m here and this in my scene’ kind of attitude, which made for an amusing and entertaining performance.

Although, slotted with the other actors in the show, she may seem a little out of place, I would say I really enjoyed her performance. There was not a hint of her Australian accent through the convincing deep and thick Brooklyn accent she put on, and she gave, in my eyes a bold and brave performance, and her sense of humour really shone through and had the audience in stitches. She held her own in the singing department to, getting huge cheers from the audience after her quirky and hilarious solos! We went to the stage door afterwards, hoping to maybe get a quick picture with the star herself, and although we couldn’t get that close to her, and she was rushed into a car about 5 minutes after signing some programmes, and posing for pictures with those who were close to her, she seemed like a genuinely nice person, who was so gracious and lovely to all her fans which is always nice to see!

All in all, this was a great watch, fun and carefree, and it is a shame that its run has been shortened, considering it’s also had success recently on the UK and Ireland Tour, which often makes me wonder how they decide what is closing and changing in the West End! If you ever get the chance to go, it’s well worth a watch! 

Rebel seen here with fellow performers, Simon Lipkin, Oliver Tompsett and Siubhan Harrison

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