Last Updated on 15th July 2022
Mark Ludmon reviews Anything Goes, back at the Barbican Theatre in London starring Kerry Ellis, Denis Lawson, Simon Callow and Bonnie Langford
Barbican Theatre, London
When Kathleen Marshall’s production of Anything Goes burst onto the Barbican Theatre’s stage a year ago, it was a glorious release after 18 months of lockdowns and closures. Back in the same space, it may have a different star cast but it remains a joyful, well-oiled production full of great Cole Porter songs and stunning dance sequences.
Originally staged in 1934, the musical has gone through several reboots until the current version first hit Broadway in 2011. Sutton Foster led the company both in New York and ten years on at the Barbican in 2021, with a Tony Award-winning performance as wise-cracking nightclub singer Reno Sweeney – part of a group thrown together on a transatlantic voyage on board the SS American. Kerry Ellis has stepped into Foster’s hard-to-fill tap shoes with finesse, making the sassy role her own from the bittersweet ballad “I Get a Kick out of You” to the show-stopping ensemble routines of “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow”.
Bonnie Langford is underused but very funny every time she steps on stage as Evangeline Harcourt, a once-rich woman trying to marry her daughter, Hope, off to a wealthy English lord. Denis Lawson is understated as gangster, and public enemy number 13, Moonface Martin, while Simon Callow gives an assured comedy performance as financier Elisha Whitney. Among the returning cast, Samuel Edwards brings winning charm to the role of Hope’s admirer, Billy Crocker, and Haydn Oakley is hilarious as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, especially when he releases “the gypsy in me”. Carly Mercedes Dyer is also back, standing out as the gleefully man-hungry Erma.
This is truly an ensemble production, slickly directed and choreographed by Marshall, with striking retro sets designed by Derek McLane and costumes by Jon Morrell. It is at its best when the whole cast fill the stage, including an accomplished flawless line-up of dancing sailors and passengers. The leads may have changed but Anything Goes continues to sparkle.
Anything Goes runs at the Barbican Theatre until 3 September 2022.