Anything Goes – Review – Bradford Alhambra

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Anything Goes – Review

Bradford Alhambra, March 2015

by Sandra Callard

Cole Porter composed Anything Goes in 1934, and his evergreen songs have been on the lips of practically every singer of note since. There have been countless revivals in the 80-years since the show’s conception. The latest one now arrives at the Bradford Alhambra. Does it stand the test of time? Well, for a start there is a cracking crew aboard the SS American, luxury cruise ship sailing from New York to Southampton. The plot is the familiar insubstantial whimsy of mixed up lovers, multiple identities and who is who. We know it will get sorted out in the end but momentum is helped by a shelf load of comic characters with a clever and witty script.

anything goes yorkshire theatreNew York tycoon, Elisha Whitney, ably and cleverly played by Simon Rouse, is chasing hard up socialite, Evangeline Harcourt. She is classily and amusingly depicted by Jane Wymark. Her daughter, Hope, is pursued by Whitney employee, Billy Crocker. Hope is due to marry English chinless wonder, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, in order to secure the family’s circumstances. But she is, of course, in love with Billy Crocker, stowing away on the ship and posing as Public Enemy Number One.

“The audience is in stitches”

Brassy and sassy nightcub entertainer Reno Sweeney is also in love with Billy. She is the main mover in this mish-mash of a plot which is almost extraneous to the show. Debbie Kurup plays Reno with assurance and verve. The show provides a sensational vehicle for her talents. This girl can belt out a number with the power of a ship’s siren. She can also deliver a mean comedy routine. But her pseudo-religious, evangelical delivery of ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’ is as stomping and athletic as any musical number I have seen recently. She doesn’t appear to draw breath. I am exhausted just watching her.

anything goes review bradfordThe supporting cast are exactly that. Each one of them brings something relevant to the show. Hugh Sachs as the incompetent gangster, Moonface Martin, who glories in the title of Public Enemy Number 13, is a joy. Not usually known for his song and dance routines, and rightly so, he nevertheless pulls the routines off with a mixture of impish charm and devastating one-liners.

The audience love Stephen Matthews’ performance as the upper class twit, Lord Oakley. He studiously studies American colloquialisms, getting every meaning wrong. His hilarious rendering of ‘The Gypsy in Me’, has the audience in stitches. For me, it is the performance of the night. Matthew’s isn’t the star of the show, but he gets the biggest cheer at curtain call.

“Have fun and enjoy the spectacle”

anything goes cole porterThe stage setting of a transatlantic luxury liner is effective and clever. It is redolent of the 1930s, with pastel candy colours and beautiful lighting. The women’s dresses are gorgeous, and the swimwear is delicious. Visually this show is a delight. The classic Cole Porter songs keep on coming, and the seismic tap-dancing of ‘Anything Goes’ at the close of Act One is exhilarating.

The beautifully clever Cole Porter lyrics of ‘It’s De-Lovely’, ‘You’re the Top’, ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, and the rest, are sublime. They have lasted eighty years, and their titles could easily apply to the show as well. There is no attempt to impart any message to the audience except to have fun and enjoy the spectacle. You can certainly do that, in spades.

images: Johan Persson

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