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A slice of Broadway in the West End with Anything Goes



Review by David Munro

ANYTHING Goes comes to The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane from the National Theatre garlanded with praise and who am I to disagree? Trevor Nunn's production of Anything Goes is the nearest thing to Broadway style that London has seen for a long time - if ever.

It has pace, style, exciting dancing, choreographed by Stephen Mears, and the overall gloss which differentiates a Broadway show from any other.

It is virtually a one-set production; the deck and bridge superstructure of a cruise liner, with a couple or so inset scenes, which enables the action to move effortlessly from dialogue into song and dance numbers, thus keeping up an irresistible momentum.

The plot, for what it is worth, is buried under a plethora of colour and movement. The singing, both individual and choral, is tuneful with words both intelligibly and intelligently sung.

In Sally Ann Triplett, as Reno Sweeny, the nightclub hot gospeller, the show has a justly acclaimed comedienne, with a powerful yet tuneful voice that give the Cole Porter lyrics and music full value.

I never saw the legendary Merman in the part on stage, merely on film, but on that showing, I would aver that Miss Triplett equals, if not surpasses, Miss Merman in both performance and delivery of the numbers. I Get A Kick Out Of You never sounded so mellifluous, You're The Top so tuneful and Blow Gabriel Blow, so powerful.

John Barrowman has played Billy, beloved of Reno, who has stowed away to woo debutante Hope Harcourt, in London before. He succeeded Howard McGillin in the 1989 production, at The Prince Edward, where the Reno was a miscast Elaine Paige.

His performance has matured since then, and he makes Billy a likeable and believable character. He, too, gives the numbers their full value, Easy to Love seems newly minted and All Through The Night is perfectly phrased, bringing out both the wistfulness and underlying eroticism that characterises the better Porter songs.

I never thought that I would admit, in public, that I enjoyed Be Like A Bluebird, which ranks for me with I Happen To Like New York as the worst numbers Porter ever wrote.

I must haul down my flag, however, after hearing it rendered by Martin Marquez, as Moonface Martin, a gangster who impersonates, for purposes of plot, a Minister, and ends up with Billy in the ship's cells, where he warbles the ditty to cheer Billy up. I loved it and saw for the first time what Porter intended the song to achieve.

 

In addition, in a duet with Miss Triplett, he puts a shine on the old warhorse, Friendship, and one wished that Porter had written more numbers for the part, as Mr Marquez is a comedian with style.

As Hope Harcourt, Billy's love interest, Mary Stockley does all that can be done with a thankless part. She looks lovely, and joins in her duets with Billy tunefully, but her character has been cut down in this version from that which was originally intended - the final scene, in which she comes into her own, has gone, so she has become just a well dressed puppet.

Simon Day, as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, Hope's intended fiancé, and Barry Ingham, as Elisha Whitney, Billy's employer, both do what they are called upon to do - Simon Day's throwing off restraint in the Gypsy in Me was one of the high spots of the evening, as was Annette McLaughlin's explosive version of Buddy Beware, as Erma, a gangster's moll

I could continue in this vein a long time, as all the parts were well played, and the rest of the cast performed their solos and ensemble numbers with flair and finesse.
Mention should, I suppose, be made of the sailors quartet, and Reno's Angels rendition of Blow Gabriel Blow, but where does one stop when the whole show is as near perfection as possible and should be seen to be savoured?

This production is one I shall use as a yardstick to measure future musical productions. No more will anything go in shows that seek to short change the audience in their casts and performances, not since I now know that the Brits are as good as Broadway when they pull their finger out and let loose a musical masterpiece like this! Anything Goes!

Anything Goes. Original book by Guy Bolton & P. G.Wodehouse and Howard Lindsey & Russel Crouse. New book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman. Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter. Director Trevor Nunn, Designer John Gunter, Costumes Anthony Powell, Choreographer Stephen Mear, Lighting David Hersey, Sound Paul Groothuis, Conductor/Music Director James Dunsmore. WITH: Barrie Ingham, John Barrowman, Sally Ann Triplett, Mary Stockley, Susan Tracy, Simon Day, Martin Marquez, Annette McLaughlin, Paul Grunert, David Delve, Julia Hinchcliffe, Rachel Stanley, Erwina Cox, Elizabeth Cooper-Gee, Philip Browne, Christopher Howell, Gary Milner, Corey Skaggs, Jason Gardiner, Liz O'Hare, Anthony Cable, Raymond Chai, Duncan Smith, Shaun Henson, Christopher Bennett, Mathew Malthouse, Joseph Pitcher, Duncan MacVicar, Nick Searle, Danielle Young, Sarah Keeton, Nicola Sloane, Emma-Jay Hurst, Leigh Constantine, Julia-Ann Dixon, Adam Jones, Phil Snowden, Claire Taylor, Andrew Wright.
Act Productions, David Ian for Clear Channel Entertainment & Philip Emmanuel present the National Theatre production at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Catherine Street, London WC2. Tickets 0870 890 1109. (Booking to January 13 2004)

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