Review: Anything Goes, Palace Theatre, Manchester

Reno Sweeny (Kerry Ellis) and her Fallen Angels

Reno Sweeny (Kerry Ellis) and her Fallen Angels - Credit: AGT

A dream of a musical, Anything Goes will have you toe-tapping in your seat and, by the end of the night, leaping to your feet.

Cole Porter, the musical genius behind the music and lyrics of Anything Goes, was joined by comedy genius P.G Wodehouse to create the original version of this eternally entertaining stage show - and it shows in every line. The storyline is pretty irrelevant to the show, to be fair, with any opportunity to raise a laugh or dazzle with song grabbed with both hands, but that's fine, as what we are left with is something entirely memorable, utterly delicious, delightful and de-lovely.

Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards) and Hope Harcourt (Nicole-Lily Baisden) on board ship in Anything Goes

Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards) and Hope Harcourt (Nicole-Lily Baisden) on board ship in Anything Goes - Credit: Anything Goes

It's not an easy plot to summarise - but here goes. Boy (Billy) meets girl (Hope), falls in love. Billy meets up with boss (Elisha) and is instructed to bring his passport to the ship departing to England the next day, then go sell shares at his business on Wall Street - on pain of being fired. Billy then  meets sassy, sexy nightclub owner (Reno) who declares her expectation of marriage and asks him to join her on above-mentioned ship, pulling full 'woman scorned' when he declines. Next day, on board ship to deliver the passport, Billy discovers the love of his life is also there, with her English lord fiancé. Also on board: her mother, his boss, the nightclub owner, a gangster on the run disguised as a vicar, his man-eating sidekick, a set of showgirls, two conmen and a small but irritating dog. Chaos ensues as Billy attempts to persuade Hope to marry him instead, joined in his efforts by pretty much everybody else on board, in secret, as he hides from his boss, takes on the persona of America's most wanted and shaves a dog. Following yet? It really doesn't matter - what matters is that this show is an absolute romp through a collection of fabulous songs, dances and moments of pure comedy, that will leave you smiling and cheering and on your feet for an encore that lasts and lasts.

A spectacular set supports this spectacular show. Kerry Ellis leads the cast in Anything Goes

A spectacular set supports this spectacular show. Kerry Ellis leads the cast in Anything Goes - Credit: Anything Goes

Casting is key when a show has such a history, and we were in safe hands here, with every role perfectly cast, from the dazzling Kerry Ellis as Reno Sweeny, the nightclub owner with a big heart who helps the man she thought she loved find happiness in the arms of another, to timeless Simon Callow, as bumbling Wall Street magnate Elisha Whitney. Kerry Ellis is an icon of the West End and from the moment she hits that first note, in I Get A Kick Out of You, it's clear why she has earned this epithet. Her voice is simply incredible - raunchy, sassy, rich and soaring and perfect for Porter's songs and lyrics. He would have adored her. 

Also pretty excellent is Denis Lawson, as gangster-on-the-run Moonface Martin. A master of comedy, with a pretty neat song and dance talent too, he brings the necessary weight to every scene, no doubt showing his younger co-stars exactly how it's done. The only moments when he doesn't own his scene is when he is accompanied by Carly Mercedes Dyer, as Erma, a classic gangster's moll, who brings serious sass to the stage and a voice to rock the fallen angels. 

Moonface Martin (Denis Lawson) in Anything Goes

Moonface Martin (Denis Lawson) in Anything Goes - Credit: Anything Goes

Of course, excellent as the cast might be, they are nothing without the song and the dance, as this show simply piles on the joy as we spin from I Get A Kick Out of You to You're The Top to Anything Goes, all in the first act. The closing scene of Act One, with the entire cast tap dancing and singing and giving it their absolute all has to be one of the best musical theatre experiences ever. Just sheer joy.

I had thought nothing beat these Porter classics, till Kerry Ellis brings us her Blow, Gabriel, Blow, in Act Two. Oh my - you won't ever see or hear it better done anywhere else, ever. With Ellis's extraordinary delivery, the marvellous accompaniment by the showgirls, the addition of the rest of the cast and the incredible musical talents of the orchestra, hidden away but dramatically present, this will be the number you remember most once the curtain falls.

Reno Sweeny (Kerry Ellis) and her Fallen Angels in Blow, Gabriel, Blow

Reno Sweeny (Kerry Ellis) and her Fallen Angels in Blow, Gabriel, Blow - Credit: Anything Goes

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Finally, a nod must be given to costume designer Jon Morrell, who brings us the most beautiful fashions you could ever imagine. Every woman is dressed to perfection, filling us with envy at the grace and style of the elegant era of the bias cut, beautifully tailored dress. 

Anything Goes runs till 18 June, at Palace Theatre, Manchester