Wednesday 21 December 2016

Anything Goes - Review

Upstairs At The Gatehouse, London


Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Guy Bolton, PG Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse
Directed by John Plews

The cast of Anything Goes

In quite possibly the finest musical to have been staged at The Gatehouse in recent years, John Plews and his cracking company deliver musical theatre magic in their ambitious staging of Cole Porter's most famous show.

Emily Bestow's design is imaginative. Ocean-liner themed throughout, including railings around the two traverse banks of seats with the neat touch of cruise-ship views and movies discreetly projected above the compact performance space that only enhances the illusion.

Of course the show is adorned with toe-tapping classic numbers and Plews has cast his company magnificently - with each song done to a turn. Making her UK debut (though with an impressive southern hemisphere CV) Taryn Erickson sizzles as Reno Sweeney. Capturing the essence of Sweeney's ballsy chanteuse Erickson makes the timeless solos her own. Jack McCann’s Billy Crocker captures the madcap requirements of his character with a perfect voice and presence.

Samantha Dorsey’s Hope Harcourt truly is de-lightful. Her character is one of the few roles that is to be played consistently straight and humour-free. Dorsey brings flawless acting and vocals to capture Hopes complex, lapsed chastity.

Where this production really shines however is in the performing detail that Plews has coaxed from the entire cast. Cole Porter’s wit is acerbic and finely honed, ranging from bawdiness and sarcasm, through to the driest of droll put-downs and his words demand to be spoken or sung with carefully weighted wit. This Highgate company deliver them to perfection, notably Jack Keane’s Sir Evelyn Oakleigh who captures the idiotic buffoonery of an aristocratic English twit (his garters, a fantastic touch) with pinpoint perfection. A good comedy performance is one of the toughest challenges on stage and Keane plays his man to a tee. My only regret in Plews’ show is that he has chosen the 1962 off-Broadway revival which omits Sir Evelyn singing The Gypsy In Me – perhaps one of the funniest songs in the canon. Alongside Keane, David Pendlebury’s Moonface Martin is another comic treat.

Dan Glover’s 6 piece band are polished, while Chris Whittaker’s imaginative and energetic choreography again squeezes breathtaking routines (including some awesome tap) into the venue’s traverse space.

This is unquestionably the best off West End musical around this Christmas – and at around £18 a pop when it comes to value for money, Anything Goes is the best show in town!

Runs to 29th January 2017
Photo credit: Darren Bell

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