My favourite show of 2021 returns with added Bonnie Langford! And an excellent Kerry Ellis now at the helm of Anything Goes at the Barbican
“Times have changed
And we’ve often rewound the clock”
There’s little surprise really that several venues turned to classic musical theatre last year as a respite from the time that had gone before. But saying you’ll put on a crowdpleaser and actually putting on a genuine crowdpleaser are two completely different things. And with Kathleen Marshall’s already-established production of Anything Goes, the Barbican made sure they were onto a winner. So much so, that a return engagement, plus a UK tour, was booked for 2022. And to just to make sure there wasn’t any doubt I’d make a return to my favourite show of 2021, they only went and put Bonnie Langford in the cast!
Sadly, my influence ended there as she’s not playing Reno Sweeney but matriarch Evangeline Harcourt, as part of a total recasting of the main parts. Kerry Ellis, Denis Lawson and Simon Callow in for Sutton Foster, Robert Lindsay and Gary Wilmot but a large number of the supporting players have returned – including the award-winning Carly Mercedes Dyer – and the production has lost none of its generosity of spirit and sheer theatrical pizazz as it transcends the ridiculousness of its plot to showcase some of the finest music ever written, complete with some jaw-dropping dance routines.
Ellis has long established herself as a leading lady but she shifts into another gear here, revealing some serious comedy chops and showing how she can steer the ship with more than just her vocal prowess. I must admit to missing Robert Lindsay (words I never thought I’d say!) but Denis Lawson is fine enough as Moonface and Simon Callow appears to be having the time of his life. Evangeline is a bit of a waste of Langford’s talents though, so it is hard not to want to see more of her but again, the joyous feel of the ensemble here is palpable across every inch of the stage and travels way out into the blissfully air-conned auditorium.
As before, it isn’t the cheapest show but there’s almost a guarantee inherent in booking this. Derek McLane’s set, Stephen Ridley’s musical direction, the band, the company, every kick of Marshall’s exuberant choreography – it all adds up to a few hours of hugely enjoyable, escapist entertainment and it doesn’t look like we’ll not be needing that for a good while yet.