This week the current west-end run of Guys and Dolls announced it was going to close 4 months early so to see the cast change I needed to go again! This production started in Chichester before transferring to the West End at the Savoy theatre last year and then moved home to the Phoenix Theatre. It had been booking until 7th January 2017, but has now announced it will close on August 21st, Rebel Wilsons last night. My only assumption is that through bringing it such a big star that ticket sales for when she had left weren’t good enough. I went down for day seats and joined a small-ish queue at 9:30am but with the whole front row available for £20 a seat there wasn’t much difficulty getting tickets.
I must admit I had seen the run earlier at the Phoenix with Samantha Spiro as Miss Adelaide and Richard Kind as Nathan Detroit and so was interested to see what differences Rebel Wilson (from Pitch Perfect making her west end debut) and Simon Lipkin (Avenue Q, Rock of Ages, Miss Atomic Bomb) as Nathan would be like. They join up with Oliver Tompsett as Sky Masterson and Siubhan Harrison as Sarah Brown who work amazingly well together and have that ‘Chemistry’ that Sky so often talks about.
The show definitely has a different feel to it. Wilson and Lipkin have made the double act of Adelaide and Nathan cheekier and ruder than before, which the obviously younger audience there for Wilson lap up with raucous laughter. They cant seem to keep their hands off each other and with Lipkin being a master of ad-lib they seem to be trying to make the other corpse throughout the show. The weird thing to explain is that this actually works. The energy they have on stage and how this comes across to the audience through hugely over the top facial expression and movement keeps you laughing when you need to and yet Wilsons take on Adelaide’s lament is genuinely moving at times. Easily the best version of that song I’ve seen through her understanding and acting of the lyrics.
What comes through more clearly than anything else is that Guys & Dolls is about much more than any one character with all four leads having their own moments which show off just how talented this cast are. Around them however are one of the best ensembles I’ve seen. Gavin Spokes and Jason Pennycooke as Nicely-Nicely and Benny have perfect timing and play off each other throughout the show and Spokes version of Sit Down Your Rocking The Boat rightfully earned him an Olivier Award nomination. There are too many high-class supporting roles in this show to mention them all but Billy Boyles Abernathy is sweet and Lorna Gayle as the General has an amazing voice!
Coreography from Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright (Singin’ in the Rain and Barnum), and direction from New York’s Gordon Greenberg are what bring this show to life however. The dancing it sublime throughout with no weak links in the cast and constant energy keep this show feeling fresh and despite being set in the 1950s has a nice modern approach. The scene when Sky takes Sarah to Havanna for example is a show-stopper of a routine which also proves how hard the 12 piece band are working for them.
In short this is a classic musical done right. Amazing casting combined with great choreography, sound, lighting, set and everything else make for a truly great evening. If you can get down before the 21st August then there are few shows in town that will leave you with such a smile on your face.
Overall: 4.5 / 5
Guys and Dolls is currently booking at the Phoenix Theatre until 21st August 2016.
Have you seen Guys & Dolls?
If so, what did you think… do you agree with our review?
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