In the world of touring theatre where, in my opinion, they genuinely do seem to think that ‘any tat goes’, I must say that it’s been very refreshing this evening to see the UK touring production of Anything Goes – I was Row G, centre stalls on their opening night in Manchester (at the Opera House).
In terms of this show and its current home and onward travels, I’m going to say, straight off, my hope is that ‘Everyone Goes’!!
No more bad puns, I promise!
A lot of work has clearly gone in to this production, and by jove, it shows! SENSATIONAL dance numbers, choreographed to within half an inch of their lives by Alistair David and executed perfectly by the cast, stellar and consistent American accents from the cast (making a great change to the calamity that I went to see at the Palace Theatre last week), and a well sounded orchestration which was snappy and made your bum shuffle along in the seats!
Casting is very strong, with Debbie Kurup as the lead character, Reno Sweeney. Having been a big fan of Debbie in other productions that she has been in, it was a true delight to get a chance to see her shine again on our local stage. Lead male, Matt Rawle, as Billy Crocker, played the part very well (with a smile so dazzling, you could see his pearly whites all the way back in the eighth row – I also thought I saw something of a resemblance to John Barrowman, in certain lights!).
If, like me, you grew up on The Bill in the 1990s, then you’ll recognise Simon Rouse as DCI Jack Meadows (though, I must stress, this has been but one of his many previous acting roles – many a lot more ‘high-brow’ for those who view things in such a way).
Making his debut in the production tonight was Shaun Williamson (best known as the hopeless ‘Barry’ from Eastenders, many years ago). I know what you’re thinking, right, ‘cos I know that I was! “Dear Regional Theatre, please stop filling our touring productions with ‘names’ that Mum and Aunty Flo have heard of just to get bums on seats”. I’m going to admit to having pre-conceived notions based on my only previous experiences of the chap, which were either Barry from Eastenders, or through internet memes. I took great pleasure in being shown how wrong that I was – his listing in the programme really opened my eyes, and I found that I really enjoyed his performance. As I say, I perhaps wouldn’t have pictured him in musical theatre before, however I think that this really is one time that ‘celebrity casting’ has really paid off – it felt like he had earnt the chance to be there, rather than solely being awarded the role based on a perception and a fan base. Top marks!
The set design was fantastic (the way those muscley ensemble sailors threw themselves around it was also a DELIGHT to watch!!). I really loved the ingenious design of it. The lighting was especially well designed too I felt and really complimented the action happening ‘on board’. Considering that there’s only the one big set change, the set is so versatile that you honestly never notice it being fairly static.
The show itself is very strong in most places, occasionally let down a little by a few unforgettable small numbers and a show that is background heavy in Act One and incredibly light on content in Act Two, but when you’re working with a classic musical – you can’t legitimately hold the production accountable for the original product that they inherit!
The bar scene before the curtain goes up is just painful to watch, and I think that if it was dropped from the production, frankly, it’d be no great loss. It felt confused and often you looked up to see Simon Rouse just blankly staring out in to the audience, which became a bit odd. All of the fake small talk went on for too long – the bar chap was out twenty minutes before curtain up. Given that the scene is set and we’re told that the character has been waiting for ages, I do feel that the awkward pre-amble in the on-stage bar detracted from my excitement before curtain up.
If you do get a chance to catch this show before it leaves town, I would strongly implore you to jump aboard the SS American and prepare to seriously ‘get a kick out of this show’ (OK, so I lied on the pun thing, if you’re not feeling de-lovley, go ahead, sue me!!)
The show runs for two hours thirty minutes, including interval.
For further information on the UK Tour, please visit the production’s official website.