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Anything Goes – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Music/Lyrics: Cole Porter

Book: PG Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse

New Book: Timothy Crouse &John Weidman

Director: Daniel Evans

Reviewer: John Roberts

Following a Christmas season at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Daniel Evans brings plenty to enjoy in this classy yet flawed revival of Cole Porter’s melodically rich musical.

As plots go Anything Goes isn’t the strongest and is very typical of musicals of the era. Its mistaken identity filled storyline is fluffy and light-hearted, while its love triangle undertones pleases but never really has a sting in its tail – as a vehicle to showcase Porter’s toe-tapping musical numbers however it holds itself perfectly fine.

Anything Goes has been used in the past as a vehicle for a powerful leading lady to showcase her stuff as cruise ship performer Reno Sweeney – in this UK tour West End star Debbie Kurup steps into the chanteuse’s shoes. Kurup, without a doubt gives a strong vocal performance and she can tap like the best of them, however her performance lacks the power and presence that such a strong character needs to hold the show, there lacks an underlying tension that should be constantly simmering throughout – it’s all just a little too nice and presentable.

Matt Rawle as master of disguise Billy Crocker on the other hand makes things all look a little too easy – this is a performer that oozes charm and you can’t help but warm to the character’s exploits – he duets brilliantly with Kurup in a charming rendition of You’re The Top and his delivery of Easy To Love resonated perfectly. Alongside Rawle as love interest Hope Harcourt, Zoë Rainey epitomizes the class and refinement of the era with aplomb, she shines as she sings and dances with a grace and vigour that is de-lovely to watch.

Strong support comes from Stephen Matthews as the foppish Lord Evelyn Oakleigh who really comes into his own during his act two number The Gypsy In Me lifting what is otherwise a rather ploddy second act. Hugh Sachs continues the comedy as gangster Moonface Martin and Alex Young enjoys and relishes her time on stage as Erma.

Daniel Evans’ production really shines during the big ensemble numbers where Alistair David’s crisp choreography is allowed to take centre stage act one closer and the titular song is a real showstopper and the energy bounces around the huge Empire auditorium. Blow Gabriel Blow while perhaps a little more subdued titillates and teases with a sensual burlesque edge.

On it’s own its clear that Richard Kent’s static set would have brought a desired wow effect to the intimate Crucible auditorium but when put into a number one theatre and competing against current shows on the market such as Mamma Mia and Wicked it all feels a little underwhelming – functional yes… showstopping? Not quite.

Porter’s music is played with precision and panache and the nine piece pit band under the direction of Tom Brady feels rich and sumptuous – credit should also be given to Yamina Mezell who mixes the sound perfectly in what can be arguably the best mix heard in the Empire in recent years.

It’s a pleasure to see a revival of Anything Goes touring to the regions in what is clear a project that has had plenty of love infused into it – but it just lacks the punch and power that regional audiences have perhaps become spoilt by in recent years – overall an enjoyable but flawed production.

Runs until Saturday 21st March

Music/Lyrics: Cole Porter Book: PG Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse New Book: Timothy Crouse &John Weidman Director: Daniel Evans Reviewer: John Roberts Following a Christmas season at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, Daniel Evans brings plenty to enjoy in this classy yet flawed revival of Cole Porter’s melodically rich musical. As plots go Anything Goes isn’t the strongest and is very typical of musicals of the era. Its mistaken identity filled storyline is fluffy and light-hearted, while its love triangle undertones pleases but never really has a sting in its tail - as a vehicle to showcase Porter’s…

Review Overview

The Public Reviews Score

enjoyable but flawed

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The Reviews Hub - North West
The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.