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BWW Review: ANYTHING GOES, Barbican

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Sutton Foster and a first-class cast deliver this first-class musical production

Anything Goes

Anything GoesIt's the outward sigh and unexpected pause of two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster as she makes her first entrance onto the Barbican stage - to great applause and cheers we should add - that travels through your body like the greatest sense of relief: theatre is back. It's a moment that, after the giant and frankly horrible pause in the world of theatre, we never thought would come. But it did, it does, and it feels so darn nice.

Theatre is back - and it feels safe. Alongside the excitement of seeing the legendary Foster, alongside a cast and ensemble of the finest we have to offer on the London stage, that remains our number one question and concern. And any anxiety is alleviated here. Full capacity but masked, a respectful but joint audience, we're ready to cheer all together through this joyfully silly tale. There's so much to love and so much to feel connected by.

They do say that the classics are hard to beat, and Kathleen Marshall's production of signature musical Anything Goes - the 1934 Cole Porter-scored comedy aboard a luxury cruise liner - proves that rule. In fact, it confirms it twice over. As we hoped and prayed upon the announcement of the show opening, there's that wonderful sensation of Golden Age Broadway. The dancing, most of it tap, is in one big unison underscored by music that feels so familiar and yet so fresh.

Sure, this is a tale that most in attendance have probably encountered before, but it doesn't matter. This feels like opening night all over again. The charm of this musical and the pace of its story leaves you desperate to book again. And there's nobody with greater charm than a certain Ms Foster.

She is, by every measure, the perfect leading lady. She is, as we'd hoped, as familiar with the piece as she needs to be in leading this company towards thunderous applause which, if heard on an actual ship, would cause a tsunami. It's loud and it's great and it absolutely rocks - and that's just Sutton's perfectly placed voice. It is, in a word, marvellous.

But what works so well isn't just the safety you feel in the arms of Foster, but the thrilling contributions by the whole cast. Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot are each worthy of their top billing. They're some of our best, and they aren't here playing catch-up to Foster - who, of course, played Reno Sweeney in New York back in 2011. Though they'd be forgiven, as it's not every day a Tony-winning leading lady is steering your ship. Spoilt? Not half!

And it's the silky voice of Sam Edwards, the piercing comedy of genius Carly Mercedes Dyer, and the cheeky sailors that are worthy of taking home with your programme. You want Broadway, you got it!

Add on top of that the big-hitting numbers like "Anything Goes" and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow", and you couldn't ask for anything more, apart from every musical number from the top through to the final, please.

Perhaps it's the time spent at home wishing for a good ol' Broadway knees-up, or just that this production is as close to perfect as you can get; either way, it's a heavenly experience. Marshall's production of Anything Goes blows the roof off the Barbican - and we can't wait to set sail again. Hopefully with Foster and a sailor in our first-class cabin!

Anything Goes is at the Barbican until 31 October

Photo credit: Tristram Kenton

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