Review by Paul Nelson
IT MAY probably be the most admired musical of all time. It contains Cole Porter's best score at the time, 1934, and was his first big hit I his career. It may also be the one show that is the most revived from the Thirties.
It certainly is the one that has had the most chequered career.
Cole Porter's Anything Goes was ill-fated from the start. Porter treated its setbacks as he treated all the vicissitudes of his life, even his crippling accident, with an almost total acceptance of fate.
Once this show had been written to the dictates of a Broadway producer who had lost his shirt and was banking on it, the show, dealing jokily with a shipwreck, was cursed by an actual disaster which caused massive rewrites.
The present production at The Landor has a lot going for it.
Not only does it restore several numbers that to my knowledge have probably never been heard by the general public this side of the Atlantic, it also adds a scene (admittedly in a limbo when it ought to be in an English country house) which actually explains the erratic and fumbling behaviour of the characters. This is a scene that has never been attempted in London before as far as I know.
Therefore, it's hooray for The Landor for giving us the chance to hear numbers like The Gypsy in Me, and Buddie Beware, and it is a shame that the whole of the show isn't to be seen in its original form. I think that London audiences are sophisticated enough to accept the original, warts and all, in order to get a definitive version.
What you get at The Landor is an evening of almost pure delight. The dancers are swell (I'm so delighted I'm leaping back into the vernacular of the time the show was written) and the leading man, Andrew Lynford, is a knockout and a real find as a musical leading man, which is what you are entitled to expect.
The show also explains to me for the first time, how Victor Moore, an American stage and screen comic, managed to gain fantastic reviews for his part as Moonface Martin, Public Enemy No. Thirteen. Harry Dickman, by no means a moon shaped face, grabs all his gags and totally explains the appeal of the character to me for the first time and I have seen the show at least four times before this version and remained unenlightened until now.
Where the show tends to weaken is in its leading ladies.
Aileen Donohoe, as Hope Harcourt, the daughter of a mother seeking a wealthy match for her offspring and looking distressingly like Carole Lombard without make-up, tries hard to make the part her own. She might have succeeded if she had sold the role more ebulliently.
Reno Sweeney, without whom the show stands or falls, is given an extremely laid back performance by Sarah-Jane Bourne. With absolutely none of the balls of an Ethel Merman (this show made her a star) she opts for a quirky reading of the lines. Most of the time I did not object to this, but when the chips are down and you have numbers as arch as I Get a Kick Out Of You, You're The Top and especially Blow Gabriel Blow, for which you need a human trumpet, Miss Bourne's performance comes unstuck.
However, it is not often you get a chance to see a flawed masterpiece, and by and large I have to say I wouldn't have missed this performance for anything.
The direction, and particularly the choreography confined by the space at The Landor, is a monument of originality and flair.
You may not get another chance to see a production as close to the original as this so I say grab your chance. The evening has many things to commend it.
Anything Goes, music and lyrics by Cole Porter, New Book by Timothy Crouse
and John Weidman & Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, based on the original
book by PG Wodehouse and Guy Bolton. Directed by Paul Tate, Musical Director
Kerry Prest, Choreography by Richard Swerrun, Designer Suzy Humphries, Costumes
Susan Hale, Lighting design by Linda Edwards. WITH: Paul Tate (Elisha Whitney),
Damien G McCarthy (Fred/Luke), Andrew Lynford (Billy Crocker), Sarah-Jane
Bourne (Reno Sweeney), Livy Armstrong (Captain), Andrew Swift (Purser), Robbie
Scotcher (Minister), Jamie Anderson (Luke), Rebecca Bainbridge (Chastity),
Christine Holman (Charity), Rachel Johnson (Virtue), Sarah Whitlock (Mrs Evangeline
Harcourt), Aileen Donohoe (Hope Harcourt), Chris Baston (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh),
Claire Carpenter (Erma), Harry Dickman (Moonface Martin), and Kevin Doody,
Mark Edison, Robbie Scotcher (Sailors 1, 2 and 3). Presented by Paul Tate
Productions, Linda Edwards and Robert McWhir for The Landor Theatre, 70 Landor
Road, London SW9.
RELATED LINKS: Click here for the Landor Theatre's official website...
OTHER LANDOR THEATRE REVIEWS: Mates has found a friend in me, click here for Landor review...
They Shoot Horses, Don't They. Click here for review...
Side by Side review (an evening of Sondheim classics). Click here...
Aladdin's a real scorcher. Click here....