New Wimbledon Theatre
touring until October 2015
Sometimes, as an actress, the main love interest isn’t the most appealing character to play. If I were a musical theatre actress (ha!) surely it’d be much more fun to be Éponine than Cosette, Ado Annie than Laurey…. and so it follows in Anything Goes, where the part of nightclub singer Reno Sweeney easily trumps that of débutante Hope Harcourt in levels of fun, charisma and glamour.
Debbie Kurup is fantastic in the role, oozing a fabulous mixture of vintage glamour and goofiness that makes Reno so likeable. Sassy is most definitely the word. Her vocals are faultless, and her dancing always embellished with heaps of personality that make her the most watchable person on stage. She leads ensemble performances ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’ and the title number with panache and sparkle, contributing largely to them being the high points of the show. Kurup is also lucky enough to get some of the best outfits – she is a leading lady in every sense.
Kurup is supported by a strong cast almost across the board. As hapless hero Billy Crocker, Matt Rawle’s vocals at times sound rather strained in the higher register but overall he is sweet and hilarious and keeps us engaged in the twists of this classic farce. The laughs come thick and fast, stemming both from Cole Porter’s inimitable wit and wordplay and the physical comedy of Daniel Evans’s animated production. Designer Richard Kent has created a simple yet intelligent set, which eschews the clichéd ship design for a towering façade that allows characters to come and go from various sets of doors, supporting the farce, mistaken identities and police searches that fill the plot.
There are one or two weak links in the older members of the cast, with Jane Wymark floundering a little as Hope’s mother Evangeline Harcourt; it’s a shame she doesn’t elicit more comedy from the part. Elsewhere Zoë Rainey makes for an elegant Hope Harcourt with suitably sweet vocals; Stephen Matthews causes hysterics with his antics as Lord Evelyn, more than proving his worth as a superb character actor; and Alex Young is a truly wonderful scene-stealer as Erma, performing ‘Buddie, Beware’ with bucketfuls of wit and verve. I hadn’t realised quite how many of Porter’s sublime tunes have made their way into this musical, with hit after hit pouring forth from the vibrant orchestra and cast: ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You’, ‘It’s De-Lovely’, ‘All Through The Night’, ‘Let’s Misbehave’, ‘You’re The Top’ and, of course, the ebullient and ever-so-catchy ‘Anything Goes’.
Alistair David’s choreography is gorgeously vintage with a modern twist, and this defines the overall flavour of this touring production. There’s a wonderful moment where Matt Rawle and Zoë Rainey look utterly bemused by the sudden appearance of swimming-hat clad dancers during ‘It’s De-Lovely’, showing that this is a production that doesn’t take itself too seriously. All in all, it’s impossible not be charmed by this wonderfully silly yet sophisticated show: it’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely.
Click here for Anything Goes tour dates and booking details.