By Jay Darcy
It’s the news we’ve all been waiting for: Beauty and the Beast is finally leaving the Palace Theatre. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an incredible show – it had Roxanne and me in tears (especially Roxanne) – but it’s been holding Manchester’s premiere theatre hostage for two months!
What better musical to replace the “tale as old as time” than one of the oldest musicals still running?
Anything Goes premiered on Broadway in 1934 – and the West End the following year. Close to a century later, it’s still going strong. The musical was most recently revived last year – at London’s Barbican Theatre. The revival was an astonishing success – so much so that it will be back there this year on top of a UK tour.
Sadly, whilst it received nine nominations at the Oliviers, fellow revival Cabaret was, indisputably, the best revival of 2021, and it won most of the awards (including all four of the acting awards), leaving Anything Goes out in the cold.
Anything Goes concerns madcap antics aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy Number 13, “Moonface” Martin, aid Billy in his quest to win Hope.
Directed by the multi-award-winning Broadway director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall, this gold plated production features Cole Porter’s joyful score – including ‘You’re the Top’, ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, and, yes – anything, anything – ‘Anything Goes’.
Featuring a 50 strong cast and ensemble of the finest we have to offer on stage (including tap dancing sailors!) and a full-sized live orchestra, this uplifting production features heart-warming romance, farcical fun and spectacular show stopping dance routines.
The leading lady, Reno Sweeney, has long been played by darlings of musical theatre. Ethel Merman originated the role on Broadway, whilst Jeanne Aubert took the reins in the West End transfer. Over five decades later, the musical was revived on Broadway, with musical Queen Patti Lupone taking on the role of Reno, before the UK’s answer to Lupone, Elaine Paige, played the character on the West End, two years later. The musical was revived on the West End over a decade later, now lead by Sally Ann Triplett (who visited the Palace Theatre with White Christmas a few months back).
Then, in 2011, Sutton Foster headed the Broadway revival – winning a Tony for the role. She is, inarguably, the most notable actress to play Reno. That’s not to say the most famous; that honour belongs to Lupone. But Reno is her role.
The following year, Rachel York was the star of the US tour. A few years later, Debbie Kurup – who we recently saw in The Cher Show at the Opera House – lead the cast in the West End and on a UK tour. It’s incredible that a Black woman lead such an iconic, old musical!
Whilst Megan Mullally was supposed to lead the London revival last year, an injury forced her to pull out. We wept for a moment, until her replacement was announced: Sutton Foster.
Kerry Ellis is the star of the 2022 UK tour – and the musical’s return to the Barbican. Ellis is a West End wonder, but Foster is a tough act to follow!
Ellis is joined by huge stars Denis Lawson (Bleak House, Local Hero, New Tricks, The Kit Curran Radio Show, Star Wars), Simon Callow CBE (A Room with a View, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love), and Bonnie Langford (Just Willam, Doctor Who, EastEnders).
The 2021 revival’s supporting stars were 2 x Olivier winner (4 x nominee) and Tony winner Robert Lindsay (Citizen Smith, My Family, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil), Gary Wilmot MBE (New Faces, You and Me, So You Want To Be Top, Showstoppers) and Felicity Kendall CBE (The Good Life). It’s great to see them replaced with other (bigger, even) stars.
Samuel Edwards is fortunately staying on as the male lead, Billy Crocker, along with Nicole-Lily Baisden as his love interest, Hope Harcourt, Haydn Oakley as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, and Carly Mercedes Dyer as Erma – the latter of whom was nominated for an Olivier for the role.
The problematic Asian characters, Ching/Luke and Ling/John, are being played by Carl Au and Trev Neo, respectively (after being played by Alistair So and John Chew last year).
I was fortunate enough to catch the revival at the Barbican last year. It is, without a doubt, one of the best productions I have ever seen – as dated as the story might be (it is almost 90 years old, so duh). The musical features the second best tap-dancing I’ve ever seen – the 42nd Street West End revival (which the aforementioned Bonnie Langford joined shortly after I saw it) obviously takes the top spot.
Anything Goes is the “musical equivalent of sipping one glass of champagne after another” (The Times) and as “delightful, delicious, and buoyant as helium” (Evening Standard), so why not hop on board the SS American for two and a half hours of top entertainment?
Anything Goes plays at Palace Theatre Manchester from 9th until 18th June, the final regional date of the UK tour before its highly anticipated return to London, where it will play at the Barbican Theatre from 25th June until 3rd September.
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