It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely - it’s the Great Depression as you don’t know it, full of the glitz, glamour and luxury of old Broadway. Kathleen Marshall’s adaptation of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes is a perfect example as to why some great musicals don’t need to be updated in order to wow audiences.
A show that we need on the West End
Set on the SS American, Anything Goes follows the evangelical cabaret performer Reno Sweeney (Kerry Ellis) as she and her friend, Moonface Martin (Denis Lawson), help Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards) sneak aboard the luxury liner by assuming a fake identity. In doing so, the group attempts to help Billy sway the love of his life, Hope Harcourt (Nicole-Lily Baisden) away from her fiancé, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Haydn Oakley). What ensues is a mischief-filled musical of mistaken identity, fun disguises, word-play and sweeping dancing numbers that create a genuinely beautiful theatre escape.
Everything in this show is spectacular from the choreography that entrances us to the tech, which serves to remove us and the characters from the harshness of reality. From Hugh Vanatone’s lighting design that mimics the romantic, naturalistic, and fairy-tale atmosphere of the show, before dropping us head-first into more comedic songs like Friendship, emphasising the humour with lighting. With Derek McLane’s larger than life and intrinsically detailed set Anything Goes is truly a moment of escape back to the golden age of musicals.
Ellis is a powerhouse of an actress. She pulls us in slowly with her sweet rendition of I Get a Kick Out of You before showcasing the range of her talent in the Act One Finale, Anything Goes, something that has us on our feet cheering by the end. Balancing the wit and cheek of Sweeney, Ellis has a gravity that resounds and stays with us throughout the show. In her larger-than-life performance, Ellis owns the Barbican Centre stage. Edwards has a certain charm about him as Billy Crocker, and it may be his ‘aw shucks’ Yankee interpretation of the character. Whilst seemingly straining to reach some of the top notes of It’s Delovely, Edwards manages to have us swooning (and rooting) for a character who in this day and age should be entirely unlikable. Carly Mercedes Dyer’s rendition of Buddie Beware is a fun and upbeat character song that showcases her talent. Even though this is meant as a comedic interlude, there is definitely some sound advice to be taken from Dyer’s performance, as she comes across as a well-rounded woman who knows what she wants and won’t compromise on it, which is always amazing to watch.
If there’s no cure like (time) travel, Anything Goes definitively proves that is the case. There is something magical about old musicals, and this one is no different. Anything Goes is a brilliant example of the lost art of overtures, full bodied orchestrations and sweeping instrumental breaks where the actors can really show off their dancing abilities. It’s musical escapism at its best and from the year we have, Anything Goes is a show that we need on the West End.