Anything Goes – Festival Theatre

Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter

Original Book by  P.G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse

New Book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman

Directed and Choreographed by Kathleen Marshall

Rating: 5 out of 5.

All aboard folks – we’ve been through a lot, and perhaps the antidote we’re all looking for is a spot of seafaring adventures. Simple and clean, glitzy and glamourous, a traditional romantic tale with a flair for the dramatic and comedic, Anything Goes pulls into port at the Festival Theatre to a full house, and an eagerly awaiting audience complete with rubber rings and their armbands.

But the crossing may not be as smooth as thought. Aboard this liner from the U.S to England a few surprise shipmates may have snuck along for the journey. Pushing the narrative forward, Samuel Edwards, who perhaps fails to receive the credit deserved, is lovesick fool and protagonist Billy Crocker, who smuggles himself aboard the luxury cruise liner to make his intentions clear to the one girl who got away, Hope. Aided by a gangster masquerading as a priest, and celebrated nightclub dancer and singer Reno Sweeney, Crocker must evade the ship’s Captain, his love’s betrothed, his employer, and worst of all – Hope’s mother.

Edwards may not receive top billing with the production’s star-studded quartet of performers, but there’s an argument to be made. Undoubtedly (and quite rightly) the Kerry Ellis show for her perfect performance as Reno, the chemistry she and Edwards share is a delight – wholesome and authentic. But not to be outdone, Nicole-Lily Baisden’s Hope may seem a trophy to some but is fleshed out enough through her performance and Marshall’s direction to bring a fresh dimension to the role.

Possibly lost to the flotsam & jetsam, Simon Callow seems to have fallen overboard – or never made it out of the dining cart for his role as Crocker’s Boss and hopeless romantic Elisha J. Whitney. But fear not, the reigning Thespian will return to the cruise liner for the weekend performances, but for those (including this evening) who find themselves with Clive Hayward filling the boots, well, they’re in for a real comedic treat. Brash, bullish, yet undoubtedly with an element of old-school charm, bounces off the cast with energy, a perfect foil to Moonface’s antics and the spurns of Hope’s mother Hayward, played by the legendary Bonnie Langford.

From 9 To 5 to saving the universe, now sipping on some bubbly aboard a luxury cruise liner – it’s safe to say Langford has been hitting a lucky streak and a well-deserved one. Though a somewhat minor role, any moment Langford’s presence graces the stage, there’s a distinct buzz in the audience as she serves torrents of class, attitude, and clear vocals, going toe-to-toe will the ensemble dancers for the more heavily choreographed sequences, showing them how it’s done.

One only needs to surrender themselves over to the show’s renditions of I Get a Kick Out of YouGypsy in Me, It’s De-Lovely or You’re the Top. Transfixed, the show’s runtime is certainly extended through the audience’s appreciation of the Act two opener, in no small part down to the Ellis effect on the crowds – rarely is such talent and dedication carried with poise and magnificently enviable capability which seems effortless. Undoubtedly honed after years of stage-work, the quality can never be faulted for the entire production, as Ellis epitomises everything successful about musical theatre’s survival – dedication, synergetic casting, and timeless wonder.

But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves, Anything Goes defines itself within a select period – and as such Jim Morrell’s costume design reflects an uncomplicated aesthetic, that is of course unless there’s a flash of razzamatazz, as temperatures soar and Reno and her ‘angels’ turn this squeaky-clean musical into something more daring, engaging and exciting. And thankfully Marshall’s award-winning choreography fits rather snuggly with the talents of the crew, darting in and about the deck, through the pleasing dimensions of Derek McLane’s set-pieces – sculpted to turn the onboard sequences into a playground for the cast.

And one performer who is playing around, evidently having a ball of a show, Scotland’s own Denis Lawson, as a gangster and absolute gem of a character actor Moonface Martin. And while Moonface may be further down the world’s most wanted listing than he may like, his partner in crime Erma is perhaps the finest one a criminal could ask. Carly Mercedes Dyer is a treasure – humorous without becoming irksome, making every sequence her own, causing the audience (and shipmates) to hang on to every word.

Where a musical bottles up so much energy, merriment and classic enjoyment, there’s an expectant ‘pop’ of fizzing fun. Well, Anything Goes seems to have an open bar, where nothing but the finest of champers is pouring throughout the evening. It ticks every box, delivering the star-studded showstopper the residents of Edinburgh were promised, providing a suitable antidotally relief before the summer season. All aboard for the finest cruise in the world, this is one show you don’t want to dinghy.

‘Fizzing With Star-Studded Pop’

Anything Goes runs at the Festival Theatre until May 15th.

Tickets for which can be obtained here.

Photo Credit – Marc Brenner


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