Review: Anything Goes, at Barbican Theatre

Thursday, 28th July — By Lucy Popescu

Anything Goes Marc Brenner

The cast of Anything Goes. Photo: Marc brenner

IT’S easy to see why Kathleen Marshall’s buoyant, award-winning production of Cole Porter’s musical Anything Goes has proved so popular. It’s pure escapism and brilliantly staged. Set on a transatlantic ocean liner (imaginatively realised by designer Derek McLane) bound for London, we are transported to another world.

Marshall’s choreography is sensational, Jon Morrell’s costumes are suitably glitzy and Hugh Vanstone’s evocative lighting adds to the magic. The show includes a full-sized orchestra (led by MD Mark Aspinall), tap dancing galore and plenty of silly disguises and gags.

On board the luxury SS American are an eclectic mix: Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Kerry Ellis), financial broker Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards) and his permanently sozzled client Elisha Whitney (Simon Callow) collide with debutante Hope Harcourt (flawlessly performed by the understudy Alexandra Wright on the night I went), her mismatched English fiancé Lord Oakleigh (Haydn Oakley) and mother Evangeline (Bonnie Langford hamming it up). Adding to the mischief are gangster Moonface Martin (Denis Lawson) and his sidekicks (Carl Au and Trev Neo).

Anything Goes originally opened on Broadway in 1934 and offered a much-needed burst of colour for those yearning to escape the grey years of the Depression.

It’s no surprise to learn that PG Wodehouse had a hand in the original book. Last summer in the UK it lifted spirits post lockdown, and is back again to lighten hearts laden with economic gloom.

This lighted-hearted romp features many memorable tunes, delivered with gusto, from I Get A Kick Out of You, You’re the Top, Blow, Gabriel, Blow, It’s De-Lovely and Friendship.

Throughout, the cast seem to be having as much fun as the audience – I defy anyone not to smile at their delightful, over the top theatricality.

Watching this sassy production, I finally understand the appeal of musicals. They are not a luxury but a necessary tonic during dark times. Anything Goes is only here for a limited run so beg, borrow or steal a ticket – you won’t regret it.

Until September 3
barbican.org.uk

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