We went to check out Kathleen Marshall’s revival of classic Cole Porter musical Anything Goes last summer at the Barbican and were absolutely blown away, describing it as ‘the perfect tonic for a troubled time’ (it was one of the first major productions we reviewed post-lockdown). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and this summer’s run of Anything Goes changes absolutely nothing apart from its lead actors. This time we have Kerry Ellis as the iconic nightclub singer Reno Sweeney; also new alongside her are Bonnie Langford, Simon Callow and Denis Lawson. The quartet of leads are ably supported by most of the same cast from last year.
It gets pretty much everything right. The story is absolute froth, but that doesn’t matter one bit – the music is exquisite, and is paired with some genuinely show-stopping choreography. On press night, both the act one closing number and the act two opener received standing ovations – as well as the musical, of course, receiving an extended ovation at the end. Everything about the production feels classy – from the moment the overture begins to the carefully-choreographed curtain call, it’s a wonderfully slick experience from start to finish. It’s rare to feel in such safe hands at the theatre.
It’s also a rare treat for a musical to have this many brilliant songs – Anything Goes has more than most. Some are so famous they’ve entered general musical canon, like ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You’; while we also have the glorious title song, the delightful ‘It’s De-Lovely’, the wonderfully gay ‘You’re The Top’, the witty ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’… we could go on and on. We’re used to most musicals having one or two standout songs, but this show just keeps them coming.
Anything Goes is also really rather amusing. The jokes aren’t all that daring in this day and age – although the queer references would have been pushing boundaries when it was written – but the timing and delivery is spot on. Even the deliberately awful punchlines – a quip about a missing pooch being found in the pool, doing the doggy paddle, elicits a groan from the audience – land so perfectly you can’t help but smile.
It’s difficult to look at this production without comparing it to last year’s. The leads do play things slightly different this time around and if we’re being completely honest, we slightly preferred the previous version; but this is personal preference, and we still had an absolute blast with Anything Goes – really we’re splitting hairs. Whether you prefer the direction of this year’s or last year’s cast, it remains objectively one of the best shows in town, full of brilliant singing and dancing. If you didn’t catch it last time, don’t miss it this time – it’s a theatrical delight.
GAY TIMES gives Anything Goes – 5/5
More information can be found here.