Anything Goes by Cole Porter – Barbican Theatre, London
Cole Porter’s Anything Goes is ridiculous – and ridiculously enjoyable show – which boasts the finest score in musicals. As soon as the title number’s patter chorus kicks in, there’s a smile on every face. If there’s anything we need now, after months sequestered from live entertainment, it’s Anything Goes. The production now playing at the Barbican comes with a heavy dose of Broadway glitter, courtesy of veteran director Kathleen Marshall and star Sutton Foster. The latter was a late replacement for Megan Mullally, who was forced to pull out, but she is so good that at times she threatens to run away with the show. This is despite an impressive supporting cast of British heavyweights. Gary Wilmot, as big businessman Elisha J. Whitney, has a limited part but uses his stage time expertly with an enjoyable over-the-top performance. Ahead of him, already over the top and racing across no man’s land is Robert Lindsay, whose middle-ranking gangster, Moonface Martin, is sublimely ridiculous. And Felicity Kendal’s dotty Evangeline Harcourt wields a small dog with aplomb.
However, it’s Sutton Foster who drives the show. She won a Tony in this part in 2011, and knows exactly what she’s doing. The high points – the rendition of the title song which turns into a no-holds-barred tap extravaganza at the end of the first half, and the second half opener ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’ – centre around her. She leads these full production numbers through a breathtaking sequence of company dance moves which flow across the various levels of the ocean liner set. It’s not that her fellow leads aren’t good. Samuel Edwards as Billy Crocker is charming, Carly Mercedes Dyer gets a lot of laughs as the sex-obsessed Erma, and Nicole-Lily Baisden’s stage debut as Hope reveals a lovely voice and plenty of stage presence. But Foster is something else, and a reason on her own to see this show. There are many more reasons, not least the costumes, which are lavish, the choreography, which is all-conquering, and the songs, which are unmatched. The plot is extremely silly, but it’s satire of a celebrity-obsessed culture is surprisingly current, even if the lyrics reference people long forgotten. This doesn’t matter in the slightest when the numbers include ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, ‘You’re The Top’ and ‘It’s De-Lovely’. This is the night out we’ve all been waiting for.