Guys and Dolls (Phoenix Theatre)
Rebel Wilson makes her West End debut as Miss Adelaide alongside Simon Lipkin as Nathan Detroit
When she tells deadbeat boyfriend Nathan Detroit (Simon Lipkin) that after 14 years together they are finally getting married, you better believe it - even if the whole world (and he) seems against it. Wilson plunges into the glitzy, sleazy world of Guys and Dolls with zeal, the natural centre of attention of the Hot Box nightclub, and all mid-town Manhattan.
Lipkin's Detroit is a capable foil – more streetwise than his gullible paramour, but hapless enough to keep the laughs coming, and make the most of Wilson's comic timing and generous ad-libs.
Even for a New York broad, Wilson's Adelaide comes across pretty, well, broad – all gurns, thrusts, and bawdy gags. Subtlety it ain't – but it is tremendous fun, wholly in keeping with the Carry On Capone style of the cheerful crooks and showgirls around her.
The parallel romance of inveterate gambler Sky Masterson (Oliver Tompsett) and earnest Salvation Army sergeant Sarah Brown (Siubhan Harrison) is a happy contrast. The heart leaps a little to see Tompsett's cynicism peel away as his ploy to woo Brown for a bet goes so well that he falls in love for real.
Not that anybody could accuse the show of mawkishness. Any quiet moments shine the stronger for the energy with which they are surrounded – mostly blasted out courtesy of Wilson herself. She is especially powerful in ensemble numbers surrounded by her fellow dancers – scenes not a million miles from her Pitch Perfect days. "A Bushel and a Peck" and "Take Back Your Mink" – both with flashy, multi-part costumes and props galore – are particularly strong, and let Wilson make the most of her physicality.
Her entrance has undeniably shifted the dynamics of the show, here and throughout. As well as that hard-to-define aura of star power, her presence gives the performance an extra jolt of comedy and bombast, all the while keeping true to its strong emotional core. A blast.
Rebel Wilson remains in the cast of Guys and Dolls until 21 August. The show continues until 29 October.