Review – Guys and Dolls with Rebel Wilson, Phoenix Theatre

Friday 19 August 2016

CknMotoVEAAA1lPA Shentonesque week for Phil: a couple of return visits to musicals. Phil had his second coming at Regent’s Park with  Jesus Christ Superstar followed the next night with Guys and Dolls: not that he was over-enthused with the latter, he was just shamelessly seduced by the star casting. Obvs.

The JCS run is sold out, so the only option was to go for day ‘seats’ which entails sitting on one of the grassy knolls either side of the stage. They are weather dependent. The show might go ahead in inclement weather but those ‘seats’ may not be on sale. The kindly people at Regent’s Park (and we must mention how especially nice all the theatre staff are at RPOAT) don’t want to risk us getting soggy bottoms.

And though the view is very much from the side it’s not at all bad. We were on the left side as you look at the stage – it’s called ‘Grass Bank Right’ on the ticket. And though it’s not a great view of the crucifixion, it was a much better view of the Last Supper tableau than previously, the full extent of Herod’s humongous costume and Caiaphas and his mob’s shoulder-shrugging choreography.

The sound, even from our positions was still spot on, apart from a couple of brief blips on Judas’ microphone and the attention-seeking flock of seagulls who timed their appearance perfectly during one of the quieter moments. And we finally got to see Declan Bennett ‘s JC, having seen his understudy last week. If we were a little underwhelmed with him in in Act 1 he knocked it, ahem, out of the park in Act 2. As did Tyrone Huntley‘s Michael Gove Judas, he seemed even more troubled, intense and electrifying on a second viewing, if that’s possible. Another gold medal for Team JC.

And if you’ve come with a sartorial nod to the titular Messiah, it’s a treat to kick off your sandals and become legitimately horizontal whilst watching a piece of theatre. Also a splendid place for crowd watching: oh look, there’s Meera Syal up the front and there’s Lord Lloyd Webber himself, bobbing his head along to his own score after plonking himself down in the wrong seats and getting kicked out of them. He might be able to read music but can he read a ticket? Perhaps he doesn’t need one. Somehow we missed Guy Ritchie and Dame Shirley, sadly Porter not Bassey. To satisfy our lawyers we must state that none of these people were on grass.

Anyway, to the matter in hand, lest the title of this page appears as hollow as a Brexit promise. What we said about Guys and Dolls previously still holds. Though Nathan Detroit is now played by Simon Lipkin and it certainly wasn’t Gavin Spokes giving his Nicely Nicely despite his name still appearing outside the theatre.

The production hasn’t improved and a second visit exposed the flaws even more, though now in its last week (closes Sunday) the theatre can happily display ‘House Full’ signs outside due to the presence of the Pitch Perfect (hugely enjoyable) and Bridesmaids (was Phil the only one to find that one woefully unfunny?) star Rebel Wilson. Since she’s Australian born it might seem entirely appropriate she’s playing Miss Adelaide but, whisper it, we were underwhelmed. She does well enough in her big numbers, but should concentrate on not swallowing some of her lines rather than gurning tiresomely. Her less than subtle lady garden-related asides, reminding us that she is indeed a Hot Box nightclub performer, seemed awkwardly out of place in a classic musical. But since the rest of the show is a tad overplayed some may feel her vulgarity suits it well. Was there a nobody to rein her in? Didn’t look like it.

Still there was a tremendous amount of good will for her, the audience went wild at the end. It certainly wasn’t Rebel without applause. If ‘Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat’, which left us beaming for the final 15 minutes, had come a little earlier it might have been a different story altogether. But it was a different story. The tin might say it’s Guys and Dolls, but it’s not as we know it.

JCS Footnote
Brent, who probably knows the original album of JCS even better than Phil pointed out that Paul Raven (better known as Gary Glitter) sang the part of one of the priests. Not something they probably want to be reminded of.

Ticket Tips
We got Guys and Dolls front row day seats for £20. There are up to 16 tickets on sale from 10 am at the Phoenix Theatre box office, which is on Charing Cross Road, not at the theatre’s main entrance. 2 tickets per person. The view is surprisingly good and if you’re coming to see Wilson you’ll certainly get your money’s worth. Run ends this Sunday.

Up to 20 JCS day ‘seats’ on the grass, depending on availability and the weather. Tickets go on sale at 5pm, so get there reasonably ahead of that. Again, £20 each, 2 max per person in queue. Run ends 27th August.

Rating (for Doll)



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