Emma Clarendon finally got to see the Barbican’s revival of the classic Cole Porter musical – but was she dazzled as everyone else has been?
If there is a musical that is filled with as much or more charm than Anything Goes then I have yet to experience it – Kathleen Marshall’s gorgeously classy production is certainly worth catching – even on the screen as I finally got to see it.
Anything Goes follows the escapades of some passengers onboard an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic from New York to London including: Billy Crocker who is a stowaway hoping to convince debutante Hope Harcourt to break off her engagement to Lord Evelyn Oakley, meanwhile his friends nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and low-level criminal ‘Moonface’ Martin. Together, there is plenty of comical situations and mistaken identity elements thrown in to make for delightful chaos.
Handled with a delicate touch, director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall rightfully keeps the show set in the era it is supposed to be in, ensuring that it feels like two hours of pure escapism. She manages to draw out the best from the cast, with one of the highlight routines being that between Reno (Sutton Foster) and ‘Moonface’ Martin (Robert Lindsay) – allowing them to really explore their partnership in full. Every comical moment just sparkles joyfully. There is a great respect for every aspect of the musical through the gorgeous choreography and art deco inspired costumes by Jon Morrell and set design by Derek McLane that makes it wonderful to watch.
Yes it could be said that perhaps that some of the comedy feels a little dated and you can see the ending coming – but somehow that adds to its charm when it is performed with such exuberance and joy by all of the cast. Right at the centre of it is Sutton Foster as Reno, reprising the role she played on Broadway, who really lights up the stage when she is on. Vocally she dazzles with such personality during numbers such as ‘Friendship’ – a really lovely and playful duet between her and Robert Lindsay that shows off her strong comical timing perfectly, while the title song is a real showstopper. Her performance as a whole really grounds the whole story in a wonderful way, drawing the rest of the characters around her with ease.
But she has excellent support all around her – Robert Lindsay’s loveable rogue turn as ‘Moonface’ Martin is a filled with charisma and of course knows exactly how to give the audience what they want. I really loved his performance of ‘Be Like the Bluebird’ – it is filled with charm and leaves the audience with a smile on the audience’s face. Carly Mercedes Dyer as Erma is also a joy to watch, delivering a performance that is has diva flair about it as she goes about charming many of the sailors onboard and Gary Wilmot and Felicity Kendal are a really great partnership – generating plenty of laughs with their antics.
This is a production that proves that classic musicals can be staged with great confidence and style – but without having to be adapted to suit an audience in a different era. It is a dazzling show from start to finish – and it is great to hear that it will be returning to the Barbican this Summer as part of a UK tour.
By Emma Clarendon