WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHEN?: matinee Sunday 25 July 2021, opens 4 August, runs to 17 October
RUNTIME: 145 minutes (including a 20-minute matinee)
Sutton Foster won a Tony for her portrayal of nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in the 2011 Broadway production and there are 2 moments here at this 3rd preview where she spurs the enthusiastic audience into mid-show standing ovations.
- Read on for reasons including how Foster’s chemistry with Lindsay as public enemy Moonface Martin is a delight
We’ve never seen this 1934 musical before and we’re here because Megan Mullally was set to make her West End debut as Reno before pulling out because of injury as we’ve always loved her for her role as Karen on US TV comedy Will And Grace.
We can imagine Mullally’s Reno would be funnier than Foster’s but her tap prowess and athletic dancing during the show stopping numbers, performing the splits here at one stage, would be much harder to top.
Act one climaxes with the title track and Foster’s dancing while absolutely bossing the lead vocal is surely is the reason why so many of the audience choose to leap to their feet at this moment.
Act Two opens with the far less well known number Blow, Gabriel, Blow which again involves much of the cast while reminding us of the recent unexpected showstopper from Guys And Dolls, is centred on nightclub singer Sweeney and spurs yet another mid-show standing ovation.
Anything Goes is set on the ocean liner the SS American sailing from New York to London as stowaway Billy Crocker is in love with heiress Hope Harcourt disappointing Sweeney whose friend and public enemy Moonface Martin is also aboard.
No expense is spared with a 50-strong company and full-sized live orchestra. There’s a fine supporting cast with Lindsay, himself a three-time Olivier and Tony Award-winner, playing Moonface who duets memorably with Sweeney on Friendship as they compete with each other to quite literally have the spotlight on them.
We last saw Kendal in 2017 at the Menier (Lettice and Lovage) when she was disappointing but she is better rehearsed here and very funny as the heiress’ mother intent on her marrying uptight Brit Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.
Gary Wilmot has less to do as Crocker’s boss but combines well with Kendal and brings humour to his minor role.
We’ve written previously about Carly Mercedes Dyer (The Color Purple, Curve Leicester and The View UpStairs, Soho Theatre) and she’s a highlight here as the flirty Erma who warns sailors exactly what she’s like during penultimate number Buddie, Beware.
Haydn Oakley’s Lord Evelyn Oakleigh has a great number with Sweeney titled The Gypsy In Me during which he shows a completely different side to himself as he seduces her during a commanding Argentinian tango. Samuel Edwards and Nicole-Lily Baisden convince as young lovers Billy and Hope seemingly doomed not to be together.
There’s a great deal of history to this show which is directed by Kathleen Marshall from Broadway and has a score by Cole Porter and originally starred Ethel Merman as Sweeney.
We’ve got this far without mentioning some of the enjoyable songs for which it is most known including I Get A Kick Out Of You, You’re The Top and It’s De-Lovely.
All of them apply equally to this superlative production which could be just the kick London needs to help it as theatres re-open.