Review: Anything Goes, Barbican

Sutton Foster soars in this superlative revival of Anything Goes which almost justifies the ticket prices at the Barbican

If love affairs you like
With young bears you like,
Why nobody will oppose”

There are several things that can take your breath away in this simply fantastic production of Anything Goes, whether the jaw-dropping rendition of the title track that closes the first act or ticket prices that top out at £175 (the Barbican’s seats may be comfortable but that is pushing it…). Fortunately, the rest of the house isn’t quite as eye-wincingly steep (though full disclosure, I was treated by the kindest aunt ?) and the joyous swells of Kathleen Marshall’s production mean you’ll find it hard to feel short-changed.

Like many a show of its time, the plot is an entire trifle – Timothy Crouse & John Weidman fashioning a new book from PG Wodehouse & Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse’s original – suffice to say it covers any manner of madcap antics on an ocean liner. Those antics are mainly there as a framework on which to hang some of the best songs ever written as we delve deep into the Cole Porter songbook for some musical heaven. Throw in a Broadway production that has already won multiple Tonys and also snag its leading lady who won of those, and job’s a good’un.

Of course, it takes a village to mount a major musical – there’s a full-size orchestra here along with a huge company – but there’s no denying the sheer star quality that Sutton Foster brings to the production. No shade on Megan Mullally who was originally cast and had to withdraw due to injury but you struggle to conceive how her Reno Sweeney would have matched up. Instead, Foster leads proudly from the front, whether belting, tapping, crooning, flirting or generally hoofing around and clearly having the time of her life.

She also has award-winning chemistry with all around her, meaning that there’s a real ensemble feel to the show, even if she also never quite lets you forget that she’s the star. There’s warmly convivial sparks with Samuel Edwards as her would-be paramour, broad humour with Robert Lindsay’s conspiratorial Moonface and fizzing flirtatiousness with Haydn Oakley’s Evelyn. And not to be outdone, Carly Mercedes Dyer lodges her own scene-stealing account as gangster’s moll Erma, maintaining her own stellar run of recent performances.

In these troubling times, the programming of Anything Goes is a canny choice, its joyous ridiculousness proving an ideal, if costly, slice of escapism. But if you’re going to treat yourself to something at the theatre, there’s a comfort in knowing that you’re paying for something of truly exceptional quality. Highly recommended. 

Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes (with interval)
Photos: Tristram Kenton
Anything Goes is booking at the Barbican until 31st October, Sutton Foster is currently scheduled to appear at all performances up to and including the matinee on Sunday 10 October.

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