Theatre in review: what the critics are saying about Anything Goes at the Barbican

‘I would give it six stars if I could’

Anything Goes
‘Vintage stage magic at its most explosively joyous’
(Image credit: Tristram Kenton)

The Barbican’s lavish, thrilling and “deliriously, defiantly, de-lovely” production of Cole Porter’s joyous musical is so sensationally good it “immediately joins the pantheon” of great revivals, said Marianka Swain in The Daily Telegraph.

It is not simply that the show charms you with such gems as You’re the Top and I Get a Kick Out of You; or that it “makes you laugh till it hurts, and gasp in wonder at the epic ensemble production numbers that start huge and keep getting bigger and better”. It is also the case that in this incarnation, Anything Goes has an extraordinary “restorative effect that takes you beyond being an appreciative audience member: it makes you feel kinder towards your fellow man. It cures the soul.”

At the climax, my mother turned to me literally crying with joy and said, “Well, that’s the show of the year.” And I couldn’t have agreed more. “I would give it six stars if I could.”

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When it comes to “the Golden Era musicals”, Anything Goes is “le grand fromage”, said Alex Wood on What’s On Stage. A romantic extravaganza set on an ocean liner, it has “gargantuan numbers, epic choreography”, slapstick skits and “whip-sharp dialogue” (by P.G. Wodehouse, among others).

Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, who won a Tony for her 2011 Broadway staging, this new London production is a flat-out triumph – “vintage stage magic at its most explosively joyous” – with a fabulous “nautical wedding cake” set, and uniformly superb performances.

Sutton Foster plays Reno Sweeney with the “wildfire energy” that also won her a Tony on Broadway. Robert Lindsay was “born to play gangster Moonface Martin”. Carly Mercedes Dyer is superb as Moonface’s partner-in-crime Erma, while Gary Wilmot and Felicity Kendal “generate cackles with every line”.

The problem with bringing an ecstatic audience to their feet cheering before the interval is that you’re then going to “need to top it in the second half. And that could prove tricky.” But not here, said Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail. This incredible show doesn’t just keep “raising the rafters”, it “blows them halfway across town”.

With her dazzling physical dexterity and effortless comic timing, Foster is the star. But above all, the production shines for the dancing. When the company floods the stage for tap number Anything Goes, it lifts the soul and “sounds like the Household Cavalry is passing by”. The whole thing is just a “dream”, said Clive Davis in The Times. As soon as the evening ends, you just “want it to start all over again”.

Barbican Theatre, London EC2 ( Until 31 October

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