- Sam Schreiber
Anything Goes (Proshot Recording) Review
Updated: Apr 28, 2022
“It’s Delightful, it’s Delicious, it’s DeLovely” – the Barbican’s revival of Anything Goes surely takes the prize as the show of 2021.
Written and set in the early 1930s, Cole Porter’s Anything Goes is a story of madcap antics aboard the SS American, on a voyage from New York to London. Packed with hilarity, romance, and mistaken identity, it sits in a league of its own as one of the bubbliest and most brilliantly buoyant shows I’ve ever seen- live or pre-recorded.
It’s also worth saying that I’m only able to watch and review this show due to the releasing of a pro-shot, filmed earlier this year and broadcast recently by the BBC. I did not see this show live and therefore I can only comment on this as a version of the show, and not necessarily even the exact version that audiences on the 2022 tour might be seeing. That’s the thing with a filmed production- it’s always the same, every time you watch it.
Arguably, the magic of theatre lies in shared experience- only the people in the room with you at a single performance will ever see exactly what you saw. Minute differences and the fact of it happening in real-time, right before your very eyes, add to the magic.
Despite my strong personal feeling of this magic, a lack of this shared experience plagues this review’s reputability, if you’re reading this with a view to seeing it live. However, if you’re looking to spend a couple of hours watching some theatrical magic from your own home- please read on.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard catchier songs than those of Cole Porter. His lyrics are some of wittiest and most exciting in musical theatre, also delivering pure, fragile beauty in some particularly wonderful moments. I honestly struggle to comprehend the age of this show- they really don’t make them like this anymore and yet it seems as glorious as ever. Musically, the songs are brassy and full, oozing with classic theatrical power and splendour. Genius is at work in Anything Goes and Porter’s work will forever stand the test of time in the canon of theatrical comedies. Impressive would be a dire understatement.
The production delivers pure spectacle, with Kathleen Marshall’s direction and choreography never ceasing to stun. A testament to this, the numbers ‘You’re the Top’ and ‘Anything Goes’ had me smiling throughout, for all of the seven or so times that I watched them. The tap sequences alone are enough to blow anyone away, with a notable eight minutes of Tony-Award-winning pure choreographic wonder in the title song, closely followed by a life-affirming rendition of ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’.
A scene-stealing Broadway legend leads the show with ease. Sutton Foster is Reno Sweeney. She bursts onto the West End with all the power and vigour of a true star- an unimaginably strong triple-threat, taking every showstopping number in her stride. She taps away with ease and remains front and centre throughout the show, truly shining out of the screen. You can’t help but smirk and chuckle along with Foster, breaking the fourth wall and maintaining Reno’s charismatic, confident, and breezy nature, effortlessly. I repeat: Sutton Foster is Reno Sweeney.
Also in the cast, Samuel Edwards and Nicole-Lily Baisden portray the delightful young lovebirds, Billy Crocker, and Hope Harcourt. Their duets, ‘It’s DeLovely’ and ‘All Through the Night’ are some of this production’s many highlights, as an audience roots for their union, against a sweetly eccentric and naive Brit (Haydn Oakley).
Old hands on the West End, Robert Lindsay, Gary Wilmot, and Felicity Kendall appear as ‘Moonface’ Martin, Evangeline Harcourt, and Elisha Witney, respectively. Exceptionally comedic and well-rounded performances in both the songs and scenes allow them to really shine out, in some particularly superb casting. Lindsay particularly so, with his duet with Foster (‘Friendship’) and his solo number (‘Be Like the Bluebird’) well and truly earning him his place in the show- it’s genuinely wonderful watching him ad-lib, often resulting in his castmate’s corpsing and, undoubtedly, a smiling audience.
Needless to say, an utterly astounding ensemble make this show the wonder that it is. The sheer energy and talent in each and every person onstage is beyond remarkable.
All in all, Anything Goes is a triumph and I couldn’t be more excited about this production’s run in 2022. Having been stunned by a filmed version, I can’t help but immensely recommend seeing this show live. It will, no doubt, be electric.
Anything Goes is available on BBC iPlayer.
Tickets to the UK Tour / Summer 2022 Barbican Centre run are available online.
Images found via Google, not my own