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Review of Anything Goes at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

There was a time twelve months or so ago that musicals for me were few and far between, now I seem to be watching loads of them. Therefore it was of course inevitable that I would find myself at the Royal & Derngate for Stage Entertainment/Sheffield Theatres new touring version of Anything Goes. My only previous encounter with Cole Porter was when I watched a 2001 version of Kiss Me Kate on Sky Arts a few months ago. It was great fun and therefore a live Porter show held high anticipation.

I was not to be disappointed as this was an incredibly dynamic and "big" performance. Probably the most lavish I have seen outside London maybe. Spotless performances and simply huge numbers, with dance routines that filled every inch of the Derngate stage. Particularly the show stopping "Anything Goes" to close the first half. From my three rows from stage seat, I almost felt as if I was on the SS America, such were the set-pieces so large.

The story itself is, I am growing to learn from the routine for many a musical, is very lightweight, We might have somebody who loves someone, they might return that love if not for being about to marry someone else. There might be some larger than life characters thrown into the mix (maybe some gangster?). There might also be some mistaken identity as well. It is all rather trivial and pointless if you get your magnifying glass out. It might also be a little dated at times and almost certainly have some parts not politically correct.

However stories in musicals often just get in the way of the music and the dance, and Anything Goes has some really rather impressive music and director Daniel Evans' production together with choreographer Alistair David has some truly dazzling dance. Not least from the truly superb lead Debbie Kurup as Reno Sweeney. Equally talented in the singing and dancing, she is the star of the show, who despite everybody being on stage for the epic "Anything Goes" is the one you are watching. Also up there in the star ranks is the comic turn from Stephen Matthews as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. He is simply hysterical to watch during his appearances and his "The Gypsy In Me" is just quite simply superb.

I was very surprised to find Barry from Eastenders in the show, but it was a pleasant surprise to see him on stage at the Derngate again after seeing him last year in One Man, Two Guvnors. It was also very surprising that Shaun Williamson (to give him his proper name) could actually hold quite a note as Moonface Martin. Who knew? (Edit: I have since been informed by @The_Ambassador_ on Twitter that he released an album. Who knew? I didn't.)

Designer Richard Kent has come up with a gloriously clever set and this coupled with Tim Mitchell's lighting creates very much the cruise ship style. I particularly loved the multi-changing lighting on the "SS America" name during the numbers. This coupled together with the generous cast numbers made this a very high quality touring show and one which you should do the honour of seeing. A perfectly ship shaped production!

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Performance reviewed: Monday 11th May, 2015 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

Anything Goes runs at the Royal & Derngate until Saturday 16th May, 2015 before continuing its tour until 30th May, 2015

For further details about the Royal & Derngate visit their website athttp://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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