Anything Goes - National Theatre 2002
‘Anything Goes’ is one of the all time razzmatazz musicals of the 1930’s and of Cole Porter’s distinguished career. The original book is by PG Wodehouse & Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse. The new book for the musical is written by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. This version was originally produced at the Lincoln Center Theater in New York in 1987.
. It is hard to see how this musical could be anything other than a hit with some of Porter’s greatest scores such as ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, ‘You’re the Top’ ‘It’s de-Lovely”. We are introduced to a host of delightfully frivolous caricatures such as the British idiotic eccentric Lord Evelyn Oakleigh; The evangelistic night club singer Reno Sweeney and her back up group the Angels; Elisha Whitney, the American tycoon; The gangster Moonface Martin, public enemy number thirteen who is anxious to improve his ranking; Erma, the moll who has been cursed with sex appeal and who is popular with all the boys.
The story concerns Hope, the debutante who is sailing to England on board the Cruise ship SS America with her fiance Lord Oakleigh with plans to marry him when they reach England. Her social climbing mother Evangeline, who is determined to make sure that the marriage goes ahead no matter what, accompanies her.
Billy Crocker is madly in love with Hope and stows away on board the ship determined to win Hope’s heart and to prevent the marriage. Reno, Moonface and Erma aid him in this endeavour and he terrorises Hope’s poor mother with stories of sinking ships and mad English men who murder their mother-in-law’s. To avoid capture he has to disguise himself, amongst other things, as a sailor, an old woman in a wheelchair and Lord Oakleigh’s brother.
The first act whilst having some wonderful songs fails to mesmerise due to an appalling lack of dance routines. There is only one energetic dance number involving the whole cast and this is towards the very end of the first act. Thankfully this shameful scarcity is more than made up for in the second act in which the cast practically dance through out.
The star of the show is Sally Ann Triplett, who has a terrific voice for these classic 1930’s melodies. I defy any Porter fan not to get a kick out of her rendition of ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’, when she calls the sinners to repent and confess their sins, any male sinner would be glad to receive the loving ministry of her healing hands. I was amazed that this song did not prove to be a showstopper, it is a chic little number with plenty of verve and great choreography throughout and contains some wonderful comic touches: the spirit of god certainly moves mysteriously in her revival meeting.
The casting cannot be faulted. John Barrowman has the dashing looks and charm needed for a leading man in a romantic comic musical, and a strong clear voice with which he belts out these wonderful Porter tunes. Simon Day as Lord Oakleigh has the befuddled lost look of an eccentric English aristocrat. Denis Quilley as Elisha Whitney and Susan Tracy as Hope’s mother Evangeline both capture to the full every ounce of comedy in these two lesser roles. Martin Marquez is brilliant as the stupid gangster who wants to be nasty and mean but instead has a heart of gold.
The set design by Jon Gunter makes you feel as if you have just arrived at New York harbour and are about to wave off a great ocean liner as she leaves for her voyage to London. The ship revolves to show cabins, nightclubs, deck walkways that creates the illusion that one is actually watching a musical taking place upon an ocean liner. Superb!
A great silly musical comedy with some of the best show tunes ever written. A must see.
What other critics had to say.....
PAUL TAYLOR for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Nunn's production is de-licious, de-lightful, de-lovely – and de-finitive." RACHEL HALLIBURTON for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Sparkling wit on an ocean of champagne." CHARLESSPENCERfor DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "The show's the top, it's the Trevor Nunn, it's the top, it's tremendous fun." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "Enjoyable show."
External links to full reviews from popular press