Reviewed by Jodie Crawford
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
First seen on Broadway in 1934, Anything Goes premiered at a time when the general public were unable to afford a theatre ticket due to the Great Depression, and those who were lucky enough to be able to buy a ticket needed a distraction from the drudgery of living in such difficult times. Fast forward nearly 90 years (I know! Can you believe it – nearly 90 years! ) and here we are again sitting in those velvet seats waiting to be transported to a world away from Brexit and partygate and fuel hikes.
Anything Goes is a spectacular revival of a classic musical from a golden age and it doesn’t disappoint. It is predominantly set aboard a cruise liner crossing the Atlantic from New York to London. Where celebrities are in short supply and high demand.
We begin by meeting the Elisha Whitney (Simon Callow), a successful business man who is preparing to sail to England for the Henley Regatta. His trusted young assistant Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards) is to organise Whitney’s paperwork for his trip and meet him with his passport ready to board. When Billy discovers that Hope Harcourt, a young lady that he had a brief romantic encounter with is to also sail to England, where she will marry Lord Evelyn, he stows away on board with hilarious consequences.
Hope Harcourt (Nicole-Lilly Baisden) is promised to another, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (played by the hilarious Haydn Oakley) . Her mother, Evangeline Harcourt (played by the legend that is Bonnie Langford) wants Hope to marry the Lord in order to secure their financial future.
Billy Crocker along with his new found friend Moonface Martin (Olivier Award winner Denis Lawson) hatch a plan or two to win Hope’s heart and call off the upcoming nuptials. Samuel Edwards is a delight in the role of Billy, he’s easy to love and he wins the audience over quickly, and what a voice – he was 100% pitch perfect in every number.
Kerry Ellis as Reno Sweeny guides us majestically and magnificently through the narrative. She dominates the stage- her vocals are outstanding and it’s easy to see why she has been cast in so many big productions both in the West End and on Broadway.
The big numbers such as Anything Goes and Blow Gabriel Blow bring the house down- they are glitzy, glamorous and the audience lap it up! Kerry Ellis owns this stage: her singing and dancing is top-class. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more of these incredible big numbers: Some of the scenes in the opening of Act one were slow paced and lacking in the same pizzazz as the bigger numbers. But it didn’t distract from the sleekness of the production and the talent of all of the cast including the brilliant ensemble acting as sailors, passengers, and angels.
Denis Lawson was a revelation to me in his role as Moonface Martin. He was polished in his delivery and his comedic timing was second to none. Every scene that he played was a roaring delight- he was also super quick and light on his feet too. A highlight was his duet “Friendship” with Kerry Ellis, which I sang the whole way home in the car.
Credit to the set and costume designers, whose creativity takes us back to a magical age of glamour and glitz. The orchestra was also impeccable.
It’s impossible to write a review of this show without giving high praise to Carly Mercedes Dyer in her role as the ever randy Erma. She had the audience in stitches and the chemistry between her and Denis Lawson was spectacular.
This show is for musical lovers, it has a star studded cast who deserve all of the praise they receive. It’s a super fun way to spend the evening and it had the entire audience on its feet, cheering during the finale.
Anything Goes is on at Manchester’s Palace Theatre until Saturday 18th June tickets available here.