Friday, 6 August 2021

REVIEW: Anything Goes at the Barbican Centre

This sumptuous production is the very definition of a Musical Theatre romantic comedy with four of the most gorgeous leading ladies you see on the West End stage each, dominating the stage in their own way and having the wonderful four leading men falling over themselves to impress them and us at every appearance. It is pure gold stage magic and a must-see outing as we return to Live Theatre.

It is a Musical Treat with the fabulous score and witty lyrics by Cole Porter setting the heart racing from the tremendous overture with Stephen Riley directing the sixteen-piece band in a Captain’s Cap to the glorious uplifting finale with the whole cast celebrating with us on stage. In between we are treated to pitch-perfect renditions of so many classic Porter tunes from “I get a kick out of you”, “You’re the top”, “Friendship”, “All through the night” and “it’s de-lovely”. But it is the two showstoppers led by Reno Sweeney, the American good time showgirl, that really lifts the show into the heights of musical ecstasy with the stunning choreography of “Anything Goes” that closes Act 1 and the sassy & sexy “Blow Gabriel Blow” at the start of Act 2.

It is a Theatrical Masterclass by Director and Choreographer Kathleen Marshall and Designers Derek McLane and Jon Morell. They revel in the creation of a stunning looking show full of small details that emphasise that we all know this is live theatre and we should suspend our disbelief and sit back and enjoy the spectacle. A lifeboat, a rope and a ship’s deck cowl vent appear just for quick sight gags; a seagull flies across the stage; the hand puppet dog gets laughs; the cabins with a porthole and door in the same wall are all set on the deck of a three-tier ship which offers excellent variation in the choreography and direction. The costumes are wonderful defining the period and the class of character, but all exquisitely designed and looking amazing.

It is a Romantic Treat: Billy loves Hope who is engaged to Lord Evelyn at the request of her mother Evangeline while Erma loves every man. Reno flirts with Billy then with Moonface while Elisha can’t see anything even when it's right in front of his eyes. But each encounter brings a smile to our face of joy. Carly Mercedes Dyer is magnificent as the man-eating Erma energetically chasing the crew around the ship. Nicole-Lily Baisden is suitably chaste and innocent as the two men seek her hand. Felicity Kendal is the timeless beauty of every man’s dream as the scheming mother. 

It is a Comic Delight that lifts the spirits. The plot of mistaken identities would fit with any Brian Rix farce. Gary Wilmot is the hapless millionaire who has his glasses stolen and whose short-sightedness adds to the confusion and chaos. Robert Lindsay is the public enemy number 13, Moonface Martin who strolls through the mayhem with his usual suave comic timing and small asides and is a perfect match for Sutton Foster’s Reno. The show belongs to her. She sings beautifully, moves smoothly and elegantly, looks a million dollars but most of all has a delightful knowing comic timing that sets the show alight. Her duo with Moonface, “Friendship” is great fun in the spirit of American Vaudeville with even the follow spots getting in on the act. 

Yet it is her leading the cast in the showstopping routines of “Anything Goes” and “Blow Gabriel Blow” which she delivers with breathless ease and precision that will live in the memory. Fabulous tap, high energy movement and slick presentation are all delivered with the appearance of effortless delight and a checky comic timing. She is a true star who we can only hope we see more of in the West End. 

While many Commercial Producers have highlighted the damage to Live Theatre of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed, the Producers of this show have pulled out all the stops and created the uplifting show that we need that must surely encourage the reticent to venture back into the theatre. It's the Top, it's De-lovely and you will get a kick out of it, all through the night.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Circle, Row A | Price of Ticket: £65
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