Friday 6 February 2015


Theatre Review: Anything Goes (UK tour)

©Photo Johan Persson

Billy Crocker (Matt Rawle) is a broker who instead of following the orders of his boss, Elisha Whitney (Simon Rouse), follows his heart straight onto the SS American, determined to convince the love of his life, Hope Harcourt (Zoë Rainey), that they belong together. The fact that Whitney is also on board of the ship, and that the girl he has eyes for is already engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Stephen Matthews), doesn't stop Billy from sneaking on with a fake passport, which belongs to Public Enemy 1; Snake Eyes Johnson.

Among the merry band of passengers is nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Debbie Kurup), who likes Billy as more than just friends; a second-rate gangster by the name of Moonface Martin (Hugh Sachs); Hope's mother Evangeline Harcourt (Jane Wymark), who is trying to marry her daughter off as soon as possible to save them from having to live as poor people; and two Chinese Christian converts with a weakness for card games.

It sounds like a very random collection of characters and their, often unintentional, interactions quickly turn into a farcical affair. Like its title, quite literally anything goes; mistaken identities, disguises made out of dog hair, random hook-ups, language barriers between Brits and Americans, and accidental marriage proposals are just a few of the plot twists that make up this hugely entertaining, though at times a tad too daft, production of the classic Cole Porter musical.

The cast takes the silliness of the material in stride, with particular highlights being Sachs' camp Moonface Martin, who thinks he's far more intimidating than he truly is, and Matthews' Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, who starts off as an over-the-top caricature, yet slowly turns into a likeable charmer – and surprisingly one of the most real characters on that stage.

But it is Kurup's Reno Sweeney who steals the show. Despite the top billing, the character is not as integral to the story as Billy Crocker is, yet oozing charisma and with a powerful voice, all show-stopping scenes within the musical are centred on Reno; including pre-interval spectacle Anything Goes. Even though the tap-dancing sequence goes on and on, it's a mesmerising performance and easily worth the ticket price on its own.

After Singin' in the Rain and Top Hat closed in the West End, London was missing a sparkling, tap-dancing spectacle from the glory days and Anything Goes certainly fills that empty space with gusto. The lyrics to one of its most famous songs, It's De-Lovely, sum up the show perfectly; it's delightful, delicious and delectable – if, perhaps, somewhat delirious at times.

Anything Goes is running at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 7 February 2015, before going on a UK wide tour. Buy tickets here.

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