(Lyndsey Winship’s article appeared in the Guarddian, 8/5; Photo: Full-beam lustre … Sutton Foster, centre, with, from left, Robert Lindsay, Jack Wilcox, Haydn Oakley and Samuel Edwards in Anything Goes. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)
Blissful songs and dance and spirited performances from a virtuoso cast make a preposterous plot into a delightful musical escape
Descriptions of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes seem to pour out in drink metaphors: it’s sparkling, bubbly, a tonic. It’s certainly got the giddy hopefulness of the night’s first champagne bottle popped, suspended in that state when the world is full of bright delight and possibility. The auditorium is fizzing, too, a buoyantly full house. This 1934 show is Depression-era escapism fit for post-Covid times. If you want to remove yourself from the world for a few hours, this is the place to do it.
The genius of Anything Goes lies in the combination of seriously good music with a plot so gloriously inconsequential that a state of blithe, uncomplicated bliss is reached. PG Wodehouse co-wrote the original book but this version, by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman was the basis for a triple-Tony-award-winning 2011 Broadway revival, led by choreographer and director Kathleen Marshall, who takes the reins again here.
The story has shifted a little over time – and new songs added, like It’s De-Lovely, originally from Red, Hot and Blue – but it matters little what happens. There’s an ocean liner heading to London from New York, a jaded nightclub singer, a mid-range gangster, a young debutante and her mismatched English fiance, a love triangle, misaken identity, bad disguises, farce and wordplay, bias-cut satin and resplendent deco designs (by Derek McLane, costumes by Jon Morrell).