Anything Goes – Bord Gáis Energy Theatre – Review
by Gearóid O’Byrne
Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, Dublin 19th May 2022
Photos by Marc Brenner
“Anything Goes” is a well-known 1930s musical with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. The original book was a collaborative effort between Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse, which was then reworked by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Since its 1934 debut at the Alvin Theatre on Broadway, New York starring the wonderful Ethel Merman, it has been a firm favourite of audiences worldwide. It has been revived often and was filmed three times, including the 1956 version starring Bing Crosby and Zizi Jeanmaire.
The story concerns the hilarious carry-on aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to English aristocrat Lord Evelyn Oakleigh to the delight of her mother Evangeline Harcourt. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy Number 13, “Moonface” Martin, aid Billy in his quest to win Hope’s heart. Much farce and comedy carry the storyline to its happy conclusion, intermixed with many well known musical numbers. Expect plenty of gags and songs along with a complete absence of musings on the human condition, it’s frothy fun that keeps you smiling.
This particular revival, directed and choreographed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall, is based on the 2011 Broadway production. The production opened in the Barbican in 2021 but this version has a number of changes to the cast. They have repurposed the previous Broadway set designs by Derek McLane, sound design by Simon Baker, lighting design by Neil Austin and musical direction/supervision by Stephen Ridley.
As you would expect from that pedigree, this is an exhilarating fast-paced, colourful romp that enthrals the audience throughout. Kerry Ellis (Wicked/ We Will Rock You) is rock solid as nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. With a powerful voice, she commands the stage, singing and dancing her way with gusto throughout the show. Olivier Award Winner Denis Lawson (Bleak House/ Star Wars) as Moonface Martin is delightful in this varied comic role and Olivier Award Winner Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral/ Death in Paradise) is enjoyable, if underused, as Elisha Whitney. Musical Theatre Royalty Bonnie Langford (EastEnders/ 9 to 5) is colourful and nicely over the top as Evangeline Harcourt. Carly Mercedes Dyer (A Chorus Line/The Color Purple) shines as Erma, a favourite of the sailors on board! Nicole-Lily Baisden (The Book of Mormon / Let’s Face The Music) plays the romantic lead Hope Harcourt with sweet innocence and a gentle voice. Samuel Edwards (Les Misérables / Wicked) as Billy Crocker has great stage presence and a lovely voice. Haydn Oakley (A Christmas Carol / An American in Paris) is most amusing as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, his song The Gypsy In Me was quite the revelation even if the lyrics are a touch troubling to a modern audience.
As with many musicals, it is all about the song and dance and this production really shines in this regard. The big ensemble set pieces such as “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” were quite spectacular and hearkened back to the elaborate musical production numbers of Busby Berkeley’s 1930s films. The stage floods with performers, with perfectly timed movements and powerful singing. Kathleen Marshall’s choreography was superb and flawlessly executed by the cast. Other well-known songs include “You’re the Top”, and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”. Some of the quieter solo songs suffer in comparison but they serve as moments of calm. The set was detailed and inventive, the lighting excellent and the full-sized live orchestra executed the score with aplomb.
The finale brought the audience to their feet in a standing ovation. The cast had given their all and the audience responded in kind. This was everything you could want in a big West End/ Broadway musical production.