Theatre Review: Any joy went with this woeful recasting

Anything Goes
Barbican, London, until September 3

I wasn’t alone in having a lot of fun at Anything Goes when it opened last summer just after the lockdown, but, although it’s now been recast, I really do wonder if it’s wise to bring it back. It’s not as if it’s an original show – it was first performed in 1934 – and surely there’s something less decrepit that the Barbican could have found for its stage.

Of course, when a show becomes as big a hit as this one did the first time around the producers reckon they have a guaranteed money-making formula that must not in any respect be altered and the money will keep rolling in. The new recruits to the cast – they include Denis Lawson, Bonnie Langford and Simon Callow – have clearly been told to play their roles exactly as their predecessors played them.

They are all of them fine actors, but this makes for strangely constricted performances and all of a sudden the show feels more like a Cole Porter jukebox evening with the big numbers – I Get a Kick Out of You, All Through the Night and, of course, Anything Goes – being performed dutifully and robotically with none of the élan that was on display last summer.

There was a real and understandable sense of celebration among the punters when I saw this a year ago – it was the first time a lot of them had been to a theatre in years – and it was, I fancy, given an easier ride than it deserved. I wonder now if it’s really as good as it thinks it is and it’s sense of smugness is, to say the least, a turn-off.