Anything Goes

May 12 2022 | By More

★★★★★    Just go!

Festival Theatre: Wed 11 – Sun 15 May 2022
Review by Martin Gray

The West End hits central Edinburgh this week, as Cole Porter’s seaborne musical Anything Goes sails into the Festival Theatre for a very limited run until this Sunday.

The show is a classic farce involving misunderstandings, mischief, love triangles, tap dancing sailors and a disappearing dog. All a tad Byzantine, but it runs like clockwork in director Kathleen Marshall’s production – characters come on, do their business, sing one of the show’s splendid songs (if we’re lucky) and leave…

Bonnie Langford and the cast of Anything Goes. Pic: Marc Brenner

Set on board the SS American as it sails from New York to London, Anything Goes sees young stockbroker Billy Crocker bid to win the heart of heiress Hope Harcourt from English aristocrat Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.

Cheering Billy on – and providing not a little help – are nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and fugitive gangster Moonface Martin. Joining in the fun are Moonface’s moll Erma, Billy’s boss Elisha Whitney, ‘born-again’ mobsters Luke and John, Hope’s pushy mother Evangeline, Reno’s backing artistes and a flotilla of all-singing, all-dancing sailor boys.


From favourites like Friendship to the unforgettable You’re the Top, there’s something for everyone. It’s a joy to hear the numbers you’re expecting, such as the title song and I Get a Kick out of You, again. It’s perhaps even better when songs you’ve forgotten, or don’t know, light up the stage.

Step forward Haydn Oakley and take a bow for a mesmerising showing as Lord Evelyn reveals The Gypsy in Me. Seeing the gauche, puppyish Englishman become a creature of passion, sexing up the stage as he bids to seduce Reno, is something else.

Kerry Ellis and the cast of Anything Goes. Pic: Marc Brenner

Reno is played by West End queen Kerry Ellis, a whirlwind of talent who dazzles throughout, never more so than in the show-stopping Blow, Gabriel Blow. (A technical hitch in Act Two brought a less welcome five-minute showstopper on press night, but what the heck, worse things happen at sea). Her precise, lyrical delivery of I Get a Kick Out of You is a masterclass in understated characterisation, while the joyous Anything Goes – featuring the entire ensemble – shows the stamina of the seasoned professional.

There’s another legend in Bonnie Langford as Evangeline in an extended cameo. She doesn’t get a number to herself, but her towering presence anchors the show and she gets plenty of chances to show her funny bones, singing and dancing in the ensemble numbers with proper pizzazz.

comic magic

Scottish star Denis Lawson shines as Moonface, bringing manic energy and a twinkle to the role. Carly Mercedes Dyer is comic magic as Erma and her big number with the amorous sailors, Buddie, Beware, shows off her pipes alongside the boys’ own, not inconsiderable, talents.

Top thesp Simon Callow was down to play Elisha Whitney but wasn’t there at this performance. Lost overboard? He’ll be back for the weekend. In the meantime the show must go on and understudy Clive Hayward leaves his Ship’s Captain uniform in the dressing room and proves a hoot as the short-sighted financier. Stepping up and into the Captain’s livery with great dignity is Royal Conservatoire of Scotland alumnus Eu Jin Hwang.

Kerry Ellis and Denis Lawson. Pic: Marc Brenner

Saddled with the show’s most underwritten role – debutante Hope isn’t a character, she’s a trophy – Nicole-Lily Baisden shows she’s one to watch with a charming performance; her duets with Billy: All Through the Night, De-Lovely and Easy to Love, are rather gorgeous too. Billy is a much more fun role, and Samuel Edwards grabs the opportunities with gusto, donning disguises, putting on daft voices and showing off his terrific tenor.

Carl Au and Trev Neo are heaps of fun as Luke and John, while Cornelius Clarke pops in and out of scenes as the Purser, matching the younger dancers step for step when it came to Marshall’s fabulous choreography.


The time period demands a certain style of set. Designer Derek McLane doesn’t half deliver – the Art Deco affairs are delicious, with Evelyn’s glorious bed something I’m going to be dreaming about. And the main set, a three-deck affair complete with massive funnels, provides the perfect setting for the dazzling dancing.

Hair, costumes, choreography – every aspect of this touring production is top flight, and that includes the orchestra led by Mark Aspinall, which provides the great sound Porter’s writing deserves.

Cruise liners today no longer run on steam, as shipping companies look to cleaner fuel. If the energy outlay of the passengers and crew of the SS American could be collected, transatlantic trips would be jolly quick indeed.

Running time: Two hours and 40 minutes (including one interval)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street, EH8 9FT
Wednesday 11 – Sunday 15 May 2022
Evenings: Tues – Sat 7.30pm; Mats Thurs & Sat 2:30pm; Sun 15 May: 3pm.

Tickets and details: Book here.

Tour continues:

Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Grand Canal Square, Docklands, Dublin 2, D02 PA03
19 May 2022 – 28 May 2022
Tickets and details: Book here.

Palace Theatre, 97 Oxford St, Manchester, M1 6FT,
9 June 2022 – 18 June 2022
Tickets and details: Book here.

London: Barbican Theatre.
25 June 2022 – 3 September 2022
Tickets and details: Book here.

The cast of Anything Goes. Pic: Marc Brenner


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