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Anything Goes

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There’s no more joyous sound in musical theatre than that of laughter, and it comes in great tumultuous waves in Anything Goes. That’s partly thanks to a hilariously screwball book, co-written by the British-born but long-time American resident PG Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, as updated and revised in 1987 by Crouse’s son Timothy and regular Sondheim collaborator John Weidman for a hit production at New York’s Lincoln Center.

It is also, of course, thanks to Cole Porter, possibly the wittiest lyricist ever to work in musical theatre, whose words ping and zing with remarkable rhymes and rhythms.

But, most of all, it is thanks to the most comically energised version of this fabled show I’ve ever seen, with its wit extending to its set, for which designer Richard Kent offers dual perspectives of the deck of SS American that it is set aboard, seen simultaneously from above and head on. Then there’s the dazzling panache and humour of Alistair David’s energised, hilarious choreography.

Wit and high comic spirits percolate effortlessly throughout the fabric of Daniel Evans’ utterly loving production, exemplified by but not confined to the exemplary comic elasticity of the performances of Stephen Matthews as the buffoon Englishman Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and the gloriously hangdog Hugh Sachs as Moonface Martin “Public Enemy Number 13”. Veteran actor Jane Wymark also manages to make rich comic mileage out of the relatively small role of Evangeline Harcourt, mother of the young heroine Hope who is being married off to Lord Evelyn but is really in love with Billy Crocker, the stowaway stockbroker who should be trading stocks on Wall Street but is instead on board pursuing Hope.

But this is also a show which has all of its musical values in the right place, too, from musical supervisor Nigel Lilley’s punchy leading of a brassy 12 piece band to performances from Debbie Kurup, Matt Rawle and Zoe Rainey that deliver their songs with clarity and power. Kurup, who has long been a secret weapon of musicals like The Bodyguard and tours of Rent and Fame, finally achieves the star role of Reno Sweeney to deliver the triple threat star quality that it demands.

Porter could have been writing his own review for the show when he has Billy sing to Hope, “It’s delightful, it’s delicious/It’s delectable, it’s delirious/It’s dilemma, it’s delimit, it’s deluxe/It’s de-lovely”. This revival is all of those things and more. As it sets out on a 33-date national tour after Sheffield, it is sure to have audiences beaming all around the country.

  • Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
  • November 28 to January 17, then touring to October 10. PN December 8
  • Authors: Cole Porter music/lyrics, PG Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse original book, Timothy Crouse, John Weidman new book
  • Director: Daniel Evans
  • Design: Richard Kent sets, costumes, Tim Mitchell lighting, Simon Baker sound, Carole Hancock wigs/hair/make-up
  • Musical director: Tom Brady musical director
  • Choreographer: Alistair David
  • Technical: Ali Fowler, Dan Franklin, Richard Blacksell production managers, Sarah Gentle stage manager, Jill Green casting director
  • Cast includes: Debbie Kurup, Matt Rawle, Zoe Rainey, Jane Wymark, Stephen Matthews, Hugh Sachs, Simon Rouse
  • Producers: Sheffield Theatres, Stage Entertainment
  • Running time: 2hrs 30mins

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The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.