Flamboyant, fun and utterly frothy, Trevor Nunn's revival of Anything Goes has just steamed into the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane after achieving success last year at the National. Cole Porter's Thirties musical is as light as a souffle, but it's performed with such panache, such style and, most importantly of all, with the sort of collective zest that proves well nigh irresistible.
A top-notch cast clearly have a whale of a time in this tale of shipboard romance and ineffective criminal shenanigans. Billy Crockett (John Barrowman), a young broker, stows away on a New York liner determined to woo his love, debutante Hope Harcourt. She is engaged to the foppish Lord Evelyn (Simon Day) whilst Billy is loved from afar by nightclub crooner Reno Sweeney (Sally Ann Triplett.) On board too is Moonface Martin (Martin Marquez), an obscure gangster and his sidekick Erma (Annette McLaughlin) whose arsenal of weapons lies in her ability to reduce a fleet of sailors to quivering wrecks. Over the course of this transatlantic voyage there's romantic mayhem, mistaken identity and a volley of slick, witty songs that include You're The Top, It's De-Lovely and the title number in which the ensemble bring the first half of the show to a rousing conclusion.
As Billy and Reno, Tom Cruise doppelganger John Barrowman and Sally Ann Triplett are superb leads with the sort of warmth and vivacity ideal for this type of show. Simon Day has a wonderful scene as the dapper English gent admitting to passionate hidden depths in the song The Gypsy in Me whilst Martin Marquez is drolly amusing as a gangster desperate for notoriety.
At the heart of the musical's appeal is its fusion of lovelorn lyricism with sparkling repartee- what Robert Cushman has aptly described as Cole Porter's 'aching romance on a high-wire of wit.' A perfect example is the occasion when the elderly tycoon Elisha Whitney (sensational Barrie Ingram)- proffers alcohol to his lady love, snobbish Evangeline (Susan Tracy.) Primly refusing his offer she says "Liquor has never touched my lips!" "Why, you know a shortcut?" Whitney eagerly retorts!
Just as John Gunter's ocean liner set revolves seamlessly to show life above and below deck, so the ensemble whip up a storm of high-kicking, wisecracking delight. Fluffy it may be, but sometimes a dose of unabashed escapism can be highly invigorating.
What other critics had to say.....
NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD says, "The musical sends you out on a high." RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT says, "Fabulous production." MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, "As tune-and-toe shows go, this is about as good as it gets." CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "A glorious voyage to theatrical bliss." IAN JOHNS for THE TIMES says, "The cast seem to enjoy themselves more as the show progresses and you will too." ALASTAIR MACAULAY for THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "A triumph of ensemble."
External links to full reviews from popular press