Take your seats, ladies and gentlemen. You thought you’d walked into the Congress Theatre, but hey, it’s the opulent bar of an ocean liner, where a gentle piano wafts Cole Porter classics, writes Kevin Anderson.
Welcome aboard the SS American – and prepare for a fabulous voyage where Anything Goes.
Dated? Actually, no. The show does have a delightful period feel, perfectly dressed and staged, and faithful attention to detail.
But, above all, it has a timeless score that knocks spots off dozens of more recent musicals. Number after fabulous number fills the theatre with Porter’s genius.
Only good things come out of Sheffield’s Crucible, and director Daniel Evans has put together a sizzling production, buoyant and energetic to the tip of every tap shoe.
It has a seamlessness that switches in an instant from silly chase sequences, to love duets, to fully staged song-and-dance.
Debbie Kurup’s Reno takes a breezy assured command. Her voice thrills, particularly in that least reverent of spirituals, Blow Gabriel Blow, and when she leads the quite phenomenal tap numbers, the whole theatre reverberates in time.
You won’t find a dafter plot this side of Gilbert and Sullivan, but no matter. It’s all disguises, deceptions and ridiculous liaisons, and once or twice in Act One – despite amusing acting – the fabric feels a little thin.
But boy, are the big ensemble numbers worth waiting for. Alistair David’s cracking choreography earns five stars, but only because a sixth is not available. Precision, imagination and dazzling speed of movement.
Zoe Rainey’s Hope Harcourt is outstanding. Not the drippy innocent debutante sometimes played: no, this Hope answers back. However improbable her romance with cheerful rogue Billy Crocker (Matt Rawle), there is genuine chemistry. Both have gorgeous lyrical voices, with perfect control and phrasing, and their duets are a real highlight.
Porter’s PG Wodehouse collaboration survives in the person of Stephen Matthew‘s foppish Lord Evelyn, and Hugh Sachs’s third-rate gangster Moonface also stands out, among a strong supporting company.
Silly, sophisticated and simply sublime. Get yourselves aboard!