Manchester is basking in theatrical bliss right now. We’ve just bid farewell to Beauty and the Beast and are getting ready to welcome the Lion King back to the city later in the year, but before that the SS American has docked in the city with a stellar cast proving that literally Anything Goes.
Originally opening on Broadway in 1934 the show has gone through many re inventions, the last being the 2021 revival which played in London’s Barbican Theatre and mirrors this UK tour before it returns to the Barbican this summer.
Cole Porter sure knows how to pen a tune with some of his most famous songs featuring in this 2 and a half spectacle. For those not familiar with the plot, the story concerns madcap antics aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy Number 13, “Moonface” Martin, aid Billy in his quest to win Hope.
I must first talk about Kerry Ellis as Reno Sweeney. I have seen Kerry in a lot of shows since she began her professional career, but I don’t think I have seen her give a better all-round performance than she did tonight. Her comedic timing, vocals and movement were faultless.
Equally impressive was Samuel Edwards, he played the smooth and suave Billy Crocker effortlessly and it is clear why he has been invited back from last year’s production to repeat the role. He is a leading man we will see much more of in the future, of that, I am sure.
Denis Lawson showed exactly why he is BAFTA and EMMY nominated and an Olivier award winner in his portrayal of bad guy Moonface Martin never missing a chance to extract an extra laugh out of the enthusiastic opening night audience.
Few would argue that Simon Callow and Bonnie Langford are theatre royalty and tonight they shone as Elisha Whitney and Evangeline Harcourt respectively. During the dance numbers it was hard for your eye not to be drawn to Langford who seemed to be having the time of her life upon the stage.
Nicole-Lily Baisden was perfectly cast as Hope Harcourt being forced by her mother to marry quite obviously the wrong man Lord Evelyn Oakleigh played by the quintessential Hayden Oakley, all for the money, whilst Carley Mercedes Dyer was simply hilarious as Erma who had a penchant for sailors. All three returning to their roles for a second run.
Everything about this production was of the very highest order, the lighting, the sound, the set, but two elements set this show aside from others. The orchestra under the musical direction of Mark Aspinall were sublime and showcased Porter’s music at the highest level. Finally, the choreography, WOW, Kathleen Marshall’s vision and movement was a sight to behold. I would genuinely have been happy with just seeing the title number Anything Goes in act 1 and Blow Gabriel Blow in act 2, both were utter perfection and jaw dropping in their execution producing the two loudest ovations of the evening from the knowledgeable Manchester audience. I am not sure any cast deserved their interval more than this after the exhausting Anything Goes finale in act 1.
Anything Goes is one hell of a musical, it has everything, the fact the plotline is rather insane adds to its charm. Couple together outstanding music, breath-taking choreography and a stellar cast and you have the ingredients for truly a 5-star cruise!
Anything Goes continues in Manchester until the 18th June, before returning to the Barbican on the 25th June, https://anythinggoesmusical.co.uk/tour-dates
Reviewer: Paul Downham
Reviewed: 9th June 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★