Miriam Gibson

Review: ANYTHING GOES at the Barbican Theatre

Remember those endless lockdown evenings, slumped in front of the telly wondering if/when you’d ever see live theatre again? This. This is what you were waiting for.

Anything Goes The Musical - Barbican Theatre Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre.

Anything Goes' initial run last Summer broke Barbican box office records, scored nine Olivier nominations, and was recorded for the BBC. Rightly so. It's an entertainment onslaught with terrific performances, fabulous choreography, and a shedload of joyous energy. Last year's star, Sutton Foster, was an Olivier-nominee and Tony-winner for her performance as Reno Sweeney, so as her replacement Kerry Ellis has big (tap) shoes to fill. Ellis takes on the role with gusto and looks like she's having a blast doing it. Vocally, she knows exactly when to sing and when to belt. She takes the songs slightly slower than you'd expect, allowing them (and herself) time to breathe. Charismatic all-rounder Samuel Edwards is oh so easy to love in his role as charming chancer Billy Crocker. They've both got tonnes of singing and dancing to do, and they make their surely-exhausting performances look effortless. Simon Callow has fun as a sozzled banker, and Nicole-Lily Baisden brings a lovely voice to the rather bland role of Hope Harcourt. There's a large and lively chorus too, meaning that there's always something going on in the background of scenes, and bringing vim to the big dance numbers.

Like all jukebox musicals, the story of Anything Goes is both incomprehensible and irrelevant. We’re not here for the plot. We’re here to watch pretty people make jokes, fall in love, sing and dance- and they do all four in abundance. There isn't a single filler song in Cole Porter's score. In fact, the tunes are so good that Kathleen Marshall's production chucks a reprise or a dance break into pretty much all of them, and it still doesn't feel like enough. The titular number's legendary tap section is a highlight, along with the foxtrot in It's De-Lovely and Moonface Martin's (Denis Lawson) adorable dance routine with a blue spotlight in Be Like The Bluebird. In a post-Covid world, watching the thirty-plus cast sing and dance onstage together in numbers like Blow Gabriel Blow is joyous. The cast look like they think so too. Their happiness is both infectious and touching.

Marshall is confident enough in Anything Goes' book, and her version of it, to resist the temptation to adapt the script or add in winks to the audience. There's no need to- the traditional tone means that this production is truly escapist. The existing jokes are, genuinely, very funny, and the script’s natural 4th-wall breaks work well. And the use of cuddly toys as pets is a delight for the audience.

This is a perfect Summer show which will leave you with a beam on your face, a mountain of awe for Ellis's stamina, and a battle waging in your head for which of Porter's songs remains jammed in your brain the hardest. Anything Goes is the best possible type of frothy nonsense. There’s plenty of decently-priced tickets still available, and you should do anything to get one. Anything. Go.