Review: Anything Goes, New Wimbledon Theatre

“If love affairs you like 
with young bears you like

why nobody will oppose”

Sheffield Theatre’s production of Anything Goes is launching on a simply mammoth tour of the UK – over 30 venues in 10 months – so it’s a pretty good job that it’s a largely excellent production. It’s rather amusing to note the number of reviews that mention that this classic show is over 80 years old yet still point out that the much revised book isn’t anything special at all but merely a framework on which to hang some of the most glorious songs of Cole Porter’s career. Given the average age of the audience, this will not come as a surprise to anyone, but there’s much here in Daniel Evans’ production to commend it to the young’uns too.

Alistair David’s choreography is a real delight, a constant breath of fresh air on which the show floats giddily, whether it’s the leads fooling about as if they’re Fred Astaire, sailors mooning over bathing beauties, or the whole company possessed with a spiritual glee. The eye is of course drawn to the stunning Act 1 finale set to the title track (which will always belong to Kate Capshaw’s bizarrely translated version in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, my first experience thereof) which is a jaw-dropping, shoe-shuffling, tap-dancing dream, cleverly referencing classic moves but also firmly establishing its own identity by keeping Debbie Kurup’s sensational Reno Sweeney front and centre.

Kurup is a real revelation as Reno (though not entirely unsurprisingly, I loved her in the original cast of The Bodyguard) stepping up to this leading role with a wonderful breezy confidence that flows so naturally and reclaims the part for a younger generation away from the divaish connotations that the likes of LuPone and Paige have lent it in recent decades. Matt Rawle doesn’t quite match up to her in terms of charisma as male lead Billy Crocker – he’s definitely the bottom while she’s the top – but Stephen Matthews’ bumbling Englishman connects beautifully with her and their rapport is one of the show’s undoubted highlights.

Zoe Rainey’s alternative heroine also impresses with a lovely vocal, one wishes there was more for her to do, but the flipside to that so many of the other supporting players get their chance to shine as MD Tom Brady stylishly directs his band through the inimitably classic score. Alex Young’s gangster’s moll is an absolute hoot, Hugh Sachs’ cuddly gangster has as much fun laughing at his character as with it and it is always nice to see Jane Wymark on stage. The company brims with the kind of charm that gets you grinning goofily and very much in the mind to forgive any perceived dramatic weaknesses – would this show really be better with a more seriously plotted story? Come on, it’s just de-lovely.

Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 7th February then touring to Aylesbury, Stoke-on-Trent, Bromley, Bradford, Hull, Liverpool, Eastbourne, Southampton, Manchester, Glasgow, Dartford, Northampton, High Wycombe, Belfast, York, Plymouth, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Cardiff, Wolverhampton, Aberdeen, Dublin, Torquay, Bournemouth, Woking, Oxford, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Sunderland and Bristol. Phew!

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