Music and Lyrics: Cole Porter
Original Book: PG Wodehouse &Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay &Russel Crouse
New book: Timothy Crouse &John Weidman
Director: Daniel Evans
Reviewer: James Garrington
“Times have changed.” So says Cole Porter in the title number of Anything Goes. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the appeal of this show. Eighty years after its first production, Anything Goes remains as tuneful and witty as ever. Set aboard a luxury liner, the plot is as thin as a sheet of tissue paper but when it comes down to it, that really doesn’t matter. This is not about realism: it is a frivolous and upbeat piece of musical theatre with an extremely witty, almost farcical book.
The pivotal rôle of Reno Sweeney is played by Debbie Kurup. Her approach to the rôle, and the vocals in particular, is somewhat gentler than is often found, but is nonetheless entirely appropriate. She leads the two big dance numbers in the show, Anything Goes and Blow, Gabriel and shows some very nifty footwork to accompany the vocals too. Indeed, the choreography by Alistair David is superb, and extremely slick, throughout and has practically the entire company tapping and singing their way through the big numbers with an almost unbelievable level of energy. A lot of effort has clearly been put into making this a lively and energetic production, and it shows.
In a plot full of convoluted relationships, the main love interest is between Billy Crocker (Matt Rawle) and Hope Harcourt (Zoe Rainey). Among the up-tempo dancing and humour there are some lovely ballads, and Rawle and Rainey both deliver Cole Porter’s often poignant lyrics beautifully and with great feeling. They can clearly both move well too, both in their individual numbers and as part of the ensemble.
The book is packed full of humour, and almost all of the characters are required to deliver comedy from time to time. The bulk of the comedy is carried by two main characters – Moonface Martin (Shaun Williamson) and Evelyn Oakleigh (Stephen Matthews). Matthews gives us a magnificent caricature of the typical British upper-class twit and his performance is one of the stand-out features of this production, with great visual humour. Much of the verbal comedy sits with Williamson, so much so that practically every line he has contains a joke but many of them pass by almost unremarked. In fact, that is something of an ongoing theme with the whole production. It is delivered with great pace, with slick scene transitions aided by a gem of an art-deco set by Richard Kent, but in the process a lot of the humour is simply thrown away, which is a shame – and although it actually doesn’t spoil the overall entertainment value of the production too much, with better delivery this could be an even funnier show than it currently is.
If you’re looking for a show that will have you tapping your feet and send you out of the theatre singing the songs, look no further than this. Full of delightful music and with lots of energy, it is tremendous fun, and well worth a visit.
Photo: Johan Persson | Runs until 16th May and on tour