Music and Lyrics: Cole Porter
Book: Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, based on the original book by PG Wodehouse &Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay &Russell Crouse
Director: Daniel Evans
Reviewer: Scott Mattthewman
Cole Porter’s 1934 musical is in many ways the quintessential 1930s Broadway production. A collection of classic Porter numbers – You’re the Top, I Get a Kick Out of You, Blow, Gabriel, Blow and of course the title number itself. Throw in a madcap plot of mistaken identity and romantic intrigue, and you have the perfect evening of musical theatre. In theory.
Unfortunately, this production of Anything Goes suffers from some fatal flaws which torpedo its cruise ship setting below the water line. A tortuously slow opening scene does its best to sap all the anticipation from the auditorium, as nightclub singer Reno Sweeney – played here by understudy Michelle Andrews, standing in for Debbie Kurup — professes her love for pal Billy Crocker (Matt Rawle) in a rendition of I Get a Kick Out of You that does little to enliven Porter’s sublimely comic lyrics.
The pace improves slightly as the action switches to the transatlantic cruise liner SS American, Richard Kent’s witty design providing a backdrop to less impressive onstage comedy. Slapstick and farce require good timing and precision dialogue to shine, and there is a dearth of both. Several of the musical numbers fall flat also, lacking the general pizzazz that Porter’s music and lyrics need to gain their best effect. And that’s despite the best efforts of Rawle and Zoe Rainey as the romantic leads, whose valiant efforts should be noted.
It is not until the first act finale, a rip-roaring ensemble tap rendition of the titular Anything Goes, that the full potential of the show is realised. It’s a superb display of choreography that quite deservedly brings the house down, but it is such a shame that such quality only comes an hour into the production.
Thankfully, the quality level holds up somewhat in the second act, despite occasional moments that not even the best cast could save (anodyne ditty Be Like the Blue Bird not being one of Porter’s finest works). The raucous gospel number Blow, Gabriel, Blow provides another opportunity for the dance ensemble to show their prowess, although there are occasions where greater synchrony between dancers would improve the performance.
It is in the second act where Stephen Matthews’ effete Earl, Evelyn Oakleigh, comes into his own. A rather Hawtreyish figure, his comedic skills stand out during his solo number, The Gypsy in Me. It’s a welcome relief to feel that the show is finally realising its potential, but when the show disappoints in so many other areas it’s too little, too late.
Runs until Saturday 14th February 2015 | Photo: Johan Persson