Music and Lyrics: Cole Porter
Director: Daniel Evans
Choreographer: Alistair David
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
The bar is serving, there’s tinkling on the ivories and a couple leisurely smooches away the evening, against a backdrop of ship’s bow and accompanying waves. This is the scene greeting the incoming audience members attending Anything Goes at Bradford’s beautiful Alhambra Theatre, putting everyone instantly into that relaxing, luxury cruising mood. When the bright lights come up on the S. S. American it’s fun and action all the way, and the amusing and engaging characters who are its passengers come to life.
Matt Rawle plays the irrepressible Billy Crocker as if he were born for the rôle. He stows away on the ship when he realises that the love of his life, debutante heiress Hope Harcourt (demurely played by the beautiful Zoe Rainey), is a passenger. Hope however, is on board with her fiancé, the posh English aristocrat Lord Evelyn Oakley (aka Stephen Matthews), and her elegant mother, Evangeline Harcourt (played by Jane Wymark, complete with a long haired mophead posing as a lapdog). Billy may only have spent one previous evening in New York with Hope – and a four (or was it six?) hour taxi ride – but he’s determined to win her love, by hook or by crook before they dock in Southampton.
There’s a string of eccentric characters on board willing to aid and abet him, from clerics to crew to Chinamen, and it’s a guessing game all the way along as to where exactly love will blossom among the rest of them, and if there are any real ‘baddies’. A few of the cast do deserve special mention as being particularly memorable, although it must be said that every person on the stage is excellent. Debbie Kurup plays Billy’s long-time friend Reno Sweeney, the evangelist turned nightclub singer, to perfection. She, along with her backup group of Angels (Purity, Charity, Chastity and Virtue), is sassy, classy and so very talented, both when singing and dancing – her legs seem made to tap. Then there’s likeable little Hugh Sachs playing the second-rate gangster Moonface Martin, who’s an effortlessly funny man, and his moll Erma (Alex Young) who has a real way with the sailors. Those hunky sailors are no slouches when it comes to tap dancing too!
Anything Goes is a great show, full of energy, colour and witty one-liners. The costumes are lavish, as befits cruising and cabaret life, and the scenery is bright, nautical, yet simply effective. It’s impossible not to sing along to such numbers as ‘I get a kick out of you’, ‘It’s de-lovely’ and of course ‘Anything Goes’. There have been numerous revivals and countless performances of this production; testament to this truly irrepressible show, which seems to keep on getting better. No one can miss the parallels with the story in the epic film Titanic, with the class-clashing hero and heroine, but this is light-hearted, pure entertainment with a happy ending that makes the world seem a better place. Go see it, sway with the waves and the songs, do a little tap dance in the square as you leave, and enjoy the escapism!
Runs until: Saturday 7th March 2015