Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Cole Porter (new book by Timothy Crouse/John Weidman)
Trafalgar Theatre Productions, Sir Howard Panter, Eilene Davidson Productions
Empire Theatre, Liverpool
April 20-30, 2022; 2hrs 30mins
(also Palace Theatre, Manchester, June 9-18)
A stellar cast and glossy marketing raise expectations for this show that are joyously fulfilled in a glorious recreation of 1930s glamour, complete with swirling ballroom pairs, Vaudevillian odd couples, and a phalanx of sailors tapping a hornpipe to Cole Porter’s syncopation and agile, clever lyrics, subtly updated for a 21st Century audience.
The production is based on the revised, Tony-award-winning 2011 Broadway show and 2021 London revival, which broke box office records last autumn.
This nautical comedy of errors, of mistaken identities and of love lost and found takes its plot straight out of the age of operetta. But Cole Porter’s upbeat, big-band swing reminds us that “times have changed” – though perhaps not too much for a show that feels at once nostalgic and morally contemporary.
For the tour, Kerry Ellis takes over from Sutton Foster as the iconic ocean liner's evangelistic chanteuse, Reno Sweeney, alongside Simon Callow, Denis Lawson and the inimitable Bonnie Langford.
Stunning performances abound from the entire cast, not least Samuel Edwards and Haydn Oakley as the romantic rivals.
Ellis has a voice that doesn’t fall short of the greats that have sung this role – lighter than Merman, purer than Foster, but with a gravity, clarity and charm all her own.
Perhaps the surprise highs of the night come in Blow Gabriel Blow - Reno’s club number – and The Gypsy in Me, the comedy duet with Oakley, where unlikely romance blossoms during a ballroom tango that is both comic and stunning.
Onstage performances wow, with some serious brass appeal from the thoroughly delectable orchestra.
The seafaring set, intricate down to the rivets, is paired with evocative costuming and incredible lighting, invoking the sea, day and night with delicious sunsets between.
Authentic, versatile choreography by director Kathleen Marshall creates an immersive impression, right out of the golden age of Hollywood.
Of its time, on Broadway, the original show was a lift for theatregoers during the great depression. It couldn’t lift us higher today. The evening is a glorious triumph of escape into a reimagined version of the 1930s – where, as Reno and the chorus remind us, Anything Goes.
Info and tickets here