Of course, I bought a ticket at TKTS because Rebel Wilson has been doing a six-week stint in GUYS & DOLLS at the Phoenix Theatre. I’ve been a fan since her obliviously creepy turn with fictional brother Matt Lucas in BRIDESMAIDS. She has a wonderful, powerful voice that everyone wants to hear since PITCH PERFECT I & II. And she, like the rest of the cast, delivered in a big, boisterous way.
But, there are always things that you haven’t planned for that are so much more for which we could ever have hoped: in this case it was in the dazzling performance of Jonathan Stewart, blowing EVERYONE else off the stage in the role of Sky Masterson.
In every other production of the musical I’ve seen, including the film, the focus seemed to be on Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide. (Who knows what the outcome will be of the proposed film with Channing Tatum and Joseph-Gordon Levitt.) Rebel Wilson certainly made an hilarious Adelaide, getting even bigger laughs as she played off tiny flubs, like the pro she is. Her star power sparkled.
(All right, I longed to hear her sing in her own beautiful voice, not Adelaide’s broad accent. Ridiculous, I know.)
No, in this production which is, sadly, ending its run 21/09/2016, it was impossible to take your eyes off Stewart. Too many performers in the musical theatre put all of their effort into the singing and just get through the dialogue in between songs; acting goes by the wayside. Jonathan Stewart shatters that stereotype.
There was no question that Sky Masterson is alive and well on that stage. He’s the cock of the walk and, he may be a gambler, but a gambler on a level the others can only dream of reaching. Yes, he boasts, but he can back it up.
How does Stewart pull off this larger-than-life character and yet, make him so likeable? That is part of the magic that keeps you wishing the scenes without him would run faster to get him back out there. Get out there and fill the theatre with that amazing voice with a range many a Billboard star could use.
Quite simply? I felt fortunate to experience that theatrical event. And astonished to learn that he was actually the understudy for Masterson.
The full impact of his acting ability really stuck me as I spoke with him afterwards. He was the only principle performer to walk out the stage door to no applause, no clamouring for photos and autographs, just putting on his helmet and pushing his bicycle carefully through theme crowd. It finally struck me why that was: this quiet, sweet, smiling young man, so surprised and delighted to receive a compliment on his performance had nothing to do with that cocksure, boastful gambler strutting on the stage. No, that man was puffed up with pride and keeping up appearances. Surely he was taller and altogether a more solid man. Hmmm. I guess not.
It is a shame that GUYS & DOLLS is ending so soon, but you have a chance to see Stewart on the stage this October. A stage production of RAGTIME, one of the great musicals of our time, is coming to the Charing Cross Theatre on 08/10/2016 and he will be a principle. No more understudies for Jonathan Stewart.
You can buy tickets now. See it before I review it.