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Theatre REVIEW: Anything Goes - ★★★

The five-star sold-out musical sensation, Anything Goes shimmers and sparkles in Edinburgh for a strictly limited season.

The musical sensation Anything Goes features a 50 strong cast and ensemble of the finest we have to offer on stage (including tap dancing sailors!) and a full-sized live orchestra, this heart-warming and hilarious production is “the spectacle of the year” (The Times) and ‘The antidote to everything’ (The Guardian).

Starring Multi-Award Winner Kerry Ellis (Wicked/We Will Rock You) as Reno Sweeney and Olivier Award Winner Denis Lawson (Bleak House/Star Wars) as Moonface Martin. Joining them is Oliver Award Winner Simon Callow (Art/Death in Paradise) as Elisha Whitney and Musical Theatre Royalty Bonnie Langford (EastEnders/9 to 5) as Evangeline Harcourt.

Directed by the Multi-Award-Winning Broadway director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall, this major production features farcical fun and spectacular show stopping dance routines, all set to Cole Porter’s joyful score, including ‘I Get A Kick Out of You’, ‘You’re the Top’ and the show stopping ‘Anything Goes’.



Festival Theatre - Edinburgh - run ended

Part of UK Tour...



Annabel - ★★★

"On 11th May I was attended the opening night of Anything Goes; Cole Porter's most well known musical and one of my favourites. I love it so - It is one classic song after another and in the style of a Farce which when done well is a fantastic funny and very silly style of theatre that leaves you smiling and remembering just how fantastic live theatre is.

The Festival Theatre touring production promised us a star studded cast and an evening of elegant entertainment upon the S.S Americam. It had a lot going for it: Really strong singers, fab choreography which truly evoked Fred and Ginger and the style of the 20s/30s and a great set (not easy to pull of a show set on a cruise ship but it was a stunning)!

The stars for me though were the gorgeous costumes and the magnificent lighting design. Sometimes you forget just how important it is. It was atmospheric and using all those beautiful colours of the era it is set in- shimmering pinks and Greens and dazzling whites- during The fabulous ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’ (best song of the whole show) they went to town and I felt the lighting was just perfect using shadows and some really clever tricks to send us all burning to hell for a moment. They did run into some technical issues with the set and had to stop production/bring down the curtain which although can’t always be helped (especially on opening night) pulls me out of that magic place theatre creates and i found it difficult to fully feel immersed again.

It’s so exciting to see such a positive shift in musical theatre of late. The show was casted ‘colour Blind’ (also known as Non-Traditional Casting). Characters are cast without regard to race, gender, etc . Thee strong cast was really diverse and it was joy to see. I did feel they needed to rethink. One of the songs which perhaps now doesn’t stand the test of time as we have evolved from the views of the 1920s/1930s and poking fun at a group with protected characteristics left a slightly sour taste for me. Unfortunately it is the only song for one character that had a pivotal plot moment. The actor (Haydn Oakley) playing

Lord Evelyn Oakleigh -the extremely posh but hilarious English gent due to marry female love lead Hope Harcourt (Nicole-Lily Baisden- oh what a beautiful dancer she is) was so funny that the song almost passed unnoticed but as I watched I thought gosh- Cole Porter wrote SO many songs maybe we could find a new one for this moment? After all as the title

Song of the musical says in its first line ‘times have changed’

Star studded? Hmmm- I was awaiting Simon Callow - but he was Man Overboard and absent from proceeding. His understudy Clive Hayward was adept and funny playing the blind as a bat and stinking rich Eli Whitney. I was so pleased to see the fabulous UK treasure of stage and screen Bonnie Langford. She looked like she was having such a ball playing Hope Harcourts Mother Evangeline but I felt she was miscast. I wanted to see her sing and dance solo! She should have been Reno Sweeney. She was wasted high kicking at the back.

Reno- one of the best parts in any musical in my opinion - A ships singer who falls in love with Lord Evelyn and has a chequered past of intrigue that we never fully find out ( but as she knows gangsters very well you wonder just what she got up to in her salad days) . I feel this was another miscast role. Kerry Ellis is a stunning singer which is vital (fun fact she was the first British Elphaba in Wicked and was such a hit she was transferred to Broadway) but she wasn’t embodying Reno for this old sinner. I always love how the character can swing from high camp to love songs to comedy duets with gangsters to the soul rousing dramatic gospel style song of Blow Gabriel Blow. Kerry looked like she was thinking what came next constantly and a bit stiff. First night in a new venue perhaps ? Something went wrong early on in her first duet with Billy (played by the dashing Samuel Edwards who had the most perfect 1920/30s singing voice - very evocative of the era) - they lost the pace and it was out of time with the orchestra who were trying to catch up. For me Kerry and Billy never quite got back on top after that. Shame because it was the first song of the show !

Shout out to the fabulous swing ensemble. Playing the staff/vistors to the ship and never breaking energy or character -they really kept the whole ship from hitting any icebergs. My absolute favourites were gangsters Moonface (the brilliant Denis Lawson) and his partner in crime Erma (Carly Mercedes Dyer) who were playful hilarious and silly and looked like they were having SO much fun in their roles. Erma has the second best song in the show ‘Buddy beware’ and she sure did look like she was relishing the song and every line from her lips. It’s a typical gangsters moll role with the typical broad ‘New Yoik’ accent but she brought something fresh to it and had the audience in stitches.

Why only three stars!? Well - One for how Delightful it was (it really was light bright and funny!) One for how Delicious (so many Gorgeous costumes and set pieces) and one for how Delovely the musical score ( i am still humming the tunes). So many powerful and nuanced singers.

BUT there was something about the whole production that lost it stars and leads me back to what i said early on in this review. Farce!

This is a musical that relies on the audience being in on the joke and is underpinned by farce. It needs to be that way to believe thw increasingly ridiculous plot. Farce is defined in the dictionary as a ‘comic dramatic style using buffoonery and horseplay and typically includes crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations’.

Anything Goes has all of that: (deep breath) Boy meets girl -is in love with girl so stows away on a ship to stop her marrying other boy who falls in love with the ships singer but is meant to marry other girl who is a debutant and whose mother wants her to marry into

money (and breathe). Boy who is employed by very wealthy man (who is on the ship holidaying but has his Glasses stolen so he can’t recognise boy who is in love with girl) goes through a series of disguises to get to girl. Boy is helped by gangsters and singers and eventually wins girl and they marry at the end…… and so does singer and spurned groom AND mother and wealthy man who starts using binoculars for glasses. As you do! Anything goes on the S.S American!! For me there was a fundamental flaw: It was too slow.

Farce is speedy, it builds up and up! Sweeping you along until you arrive at the finish line, sides hurting from laughter. The action and plot is all interconnected and relentless and there should never be a gap for you to stop and think hold on: This would never happen! The scene transitions needed a press on the fast forward button and its was a bit too aware of itself - as a result some of the jokes just didn’t land because of it. This wasn’t helped by the pacing issues in the songs, tech issues with the set and I’ll say it again… a frankly criminal underuse of Bonnie. The casting director should be popped into the ships Jail with Moonface and co. Not for long though as they may have their clothes stolen or lose all their money to card sharks. Despite this the audience were having a really good time and it is a joy to see such a full theatre again!

As i wave off the S.S American and another production of Anything goes i hope to see it return to shore one day. This was a musical production that left me smiling and evoked a time gone by while feeling modern."


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