Anything Goes

Mar 4 2020 | By More

★★★★★    It’s the Tops!

King’s Theatre: Tue 3 – Sat 7 Mar 2020
Review by Martin Gray

Everything goes extremely well in Southern Light’s take on the timeless Cole Porter musical, playing at the King’s this week until Saturday.

From the moment you see the huge, glittering lifebuoy attached to the safety curtain, it’s obvious we’re in for something special. And when an old recording of I Get a Kick Out of You transitions into a live version from musical director Crawford Moyes’ terrific band, it seals the deal.

Tanya Williamson and Jack Tarrs in Anything Goes. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

After that it’s a matter of sitting back and setting sail on the rather fabulous SS American for a comic cruise featuring some of the best songs ever written, joyfully performed by a wonderful ensemble cast.

Which isn’t to say that there aren’t standout performances in Andy Johnston’s pacy production. Toni MacFarlane as sassy nightclub singer Reno Sweeney owns the stage the second she steps on to a glitzy nightclub set, establishing immediate chemistry with the equally brilliant Matt McDonagh – he sings, he dances, he’s a whiz at accents – as ‘broken down broker’ Billy Crocker.

rare comic elegance

Billy joins the cruise to be near heiress Hope, to whom he’s hopelessly devoted, and given Rebekah Lansley’s classy interpretation of the debutante, you can see why. Hope is totally taken with Billy, but she’s sailing to England to wed Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, whom she’s marrying to please her mother – daddy lost the family fortune in the Wall Street Crash, then carelessly throw himself off a building… so he’s not on the cruise.

Matt McDonagh and Rebekah Lansley. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

Evelyn is onboard and, in the form of Kerr-Alexander Syme, an utter delight, the daft aristo showing the fingerprints on the script of the peerless PG Wodehouse. Syme delivers his lines with rare comic elegance and eloquence, qualities that also inform his physical performance, never more so that in his big number, The Gypsy in Me, as he tangoes with the glittering young ladies of the ensemble.

The other great comic turn comes from Peter Tomassi as ‘Moonface’ Martin, a hood fleeing from the law in the guise of a priest. Tomassi gives us a marvellously Noo Joisey twang which makes his every line a hoot, while his movements evoke this survivor’s slyness.

massive fun

Somewhat undercutting Moonface’s turn as a man of god is moll Erma; Tanya Williamson channels her inner Monroe beautifully, but Erma’s no dumb blonde, manipulating men right and left. Also on board are sundry sailors, seriously, sexy showgirls and a couple of comic stowaways.

Anything Goes: Act 1 Finale. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

Anything Goes is massive fun, its full-ensemble showstoppers choreographed by Louise Williamson such as the sinfully good Blow Gabriel Blow and the toe-tapping title number are colourful, tuneful affairs… the impulse is to leap onto the gangplank connecting auditorium to stage, get up there and join in.

I Get a Kick Out of You, for instance, never fails to lift the spirits, and it’s performed with real charm by the leggy MacFarlane. She’s even better in You’re the Top, duetting with the Mickey Rooney-reminiscent McDonagh, the pair of them carrying off assistant director Louise Hunter’s sharp choreography with gusto.


Billy’s duet with Hope, It’s De-Lovely is indeed delightful, delicious, delectable and all those other superlatives. The would-be couple’s other number together, All Through the Night, accompanied for a quartet of fine-voiced Jack Tarrs, is heartwarming but not twee, the moment it seems that, yeah, Billy should end up with Hope rather than Reno.

Toni MacFarlane and Matt McDonagh. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

The kookiest duet, Friendship, benefits hugely from Tomassi’s funny bones, and MacFarlane matches him laugh for laugh.

There’ll Always Be a Lady Fair is splendidly essayed by The Sailor Quartet – Cameron and Keith Kilgore, Andrew Williamson and Craig Young – but they don’t get the applause they deserve, leaving the stage too quickly. Milk that moment, lads!

When the nearest you can get to negative criticism with a show is that the cast don’t take enough earned bows, you’re on to something good.

Cast, musicians and a committed production team more than earn their passage. Book a ticket for the SS American and see for yourself.

Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes (including one interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Mon 24 – Sat 29 February 2020
Evenings 7.30pm, Matinee Sat 2.30pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Toni MacFarlane as Reno with her Angels. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

And one more time for luck… It’s the Anything Goes finale Pic: Ryan Buchanan


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