BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Anything Goes as stars set sail for musical mayhem

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Anything Goes as stars set sail for musical mayhem

The shipboard musical Anything Goes had all hands on deck raring to set sail.

Sutton Foster — cast as nightclub evangelist Reno Sweeney, the star of the show with its Cole Porter songs and wisecracks galore — slipped in to a pair of silvery-gold tap shoes.

Felicity Kendal — making her musical debut (at 74) playing hoity-toity society matron Evangeline Harcourt — buckled up her steel caps, too.

Robert Lindsay, as gangster Moonface Martin — aka Public Enemy No 13 — was doing some funny business in a scene with Carly Mercedes Dyer as his sassy sidekick Erma; something to do with emerging from a ship’s funnel with a violin case that was packing more than strings.

Sutton Foster (pictured) — cast as nightclub evangelist Reno Sweeney, the star of the show with its Cole Porter songs and wisecracks galore — slipped in to a pair of silvery-gold tap shoes

Kendal’s supposedly straight-laced Mrs Harcourt sipped cocktails with industrialist Elisha Whitney, played by Gary Wilmot.

Also on-board the fictional S.S American (actually it was marked out on the wooden floor of the rehearsal hall in Hampstead, NW London) were other love-struck characters: Billy Crocke, Hope Harcourt and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh; played by Samuel Edwards, Nicole-Lily Baisden and Haydn Oakley, respectively.

Reno (Foster) was on her feet flanked by her sinners — though for the sake of respectability during the voyage they’ve become angels — Purity, Charity, Chastity and Virtue, played by Selina Hamil- ton, Alexandra Wright, Charlene Ford and Frances Dee. Overseeing every song, gag and wiggle of the hips was director Kathleen Marshall who won the Tony for her choreography of the show she directed a decade ago — with Foster in the Reno role back then, too.

Felicity Kendal (pictured) — making her musical debut (at 74) playing hoity-toity society matron Evangeline Harcourt — buckled up her steel caps, too

Watching rehearsals I was treated to two hours of gold-plated song, dance and laughter as they went through some scenes. Kendal called Marshall the ‘captain of the ship’.

Marshall said she enjoyed watching what she called her comedy all-stars: ‘So I can see everybody’s wheels turning inside their heads trying to figure out what’s going on in a scene, who they are, and — importantly — what mischief they can cause in this romantic, screwball comedy farce.

‘Everybody interacts with everybody in surprising ways. Sometimes in musicals you’re not on stage with the entire company until the curtain call,’ she noted, but here the full 32-strong cast is involved in several extravagantly-staged numbers.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing though. Like other theatre shows, Anything Goes has been whacked by the pandemic and Government restrictions.

Robert Lindsay (pictured), as gangster Moonface Martin — aka Public Enemy No 13 — was doing some funny business in a scene with Carly Mercedes Dyer as his sassy sidekick Erma

And, Megan Mullally, Karen in Will & Grace, had been signed to play Reno in the show, which begins previews at the Barbican from July 23, but had to withdraw — as this column revealed last month — after suffering a foot injury during a tap-dancing class, five weeks before rehearsals .

Luckily, Foster was free, having completed work on TV show Younger in New York, and she knew the part.

‘Even though I’ve done it before, I’m the newbie here.

‘It’s wild for me because it was ten years ago. It’s like meeting up with an old friend I knew really well and we’re getting re-acquainted.’

Watching rehearsals I was treated to two hours of gold-plated song, dance and laughter as they went through some scenes. Kendal called Marshall the ‘captain of the ship’

‘It’s like a gift,’ she exclaimed.

Lindsay leapt in with: ‘You’re the gift, baby.’ He said Foster’s a proper dancer but that he ‘can’t follow moves that easily’ even though he won a Fred Astaire Award 34 years ago for his dancing in Me And My Girl.

Marshall disagreed. ‘He’s very agile and has incredible style’ she said of Lindsay’s dancing.

Kendal fessed up and said that she really can’t dance, but has been taking tap-dancing lessons for months.

Her cast-mates teased her that she’ll be performing a tap solo and a ballet sequence. ‘In my dreams’ she said, chuckling, as she exited stage left.

Branagh’s boogie with the Bee Gees 

Actor knight Kenneth Branagh had a touch of Night Fever about him as he made disco-boogie gestures with his arms while he went through the hit parade of Bee Gees chart-toppers.

Branagh (pictured) told me that he is working on a screenplay, which Ben Elton is writing, about the legendary super-group’s rise to the top, for a film that he will also direct.

He revealed that he’s collaborating with Barry Gibb on the project — the last surviving Bee Gee, and Gibb brother.

Actor knight Kenneth Branagh had a touch of Night Fever about him as he made disco-boogie gestures with his arms while he went through the hit parade of Bee Gees chart-toppers

Maurice died in 2003 and Robin, his twin, nine years later. Troubled youngest brother, Andy — who had his own solo career — died in 1988.

‘They were a hell of a cultural phenomenon and Barry’s story is a pretty special one,’ said Branagh.

Enthused, the filmmaker spoke of the string of non-stop songs that came out in 1977 from the Saturday Night Fever film alone: How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever and If I Can’t Have You (sung by Yvonne Elliman on the soundtrack).

Barry also wrote the title song for the Grease movie; plus he helped pen several songs for Andy.

Branagh said it was an era that caused them grief in the end.

‘You could not put the radio on and not hear a Bee Gees song, they experienced a global ubiquity.

Branagh (pictured) told me that he is working on a screenplay, which Ben Elton is writing, about the legendary super-group’s rise to the top, for a film that he will also direct

‘It’s a level of fame that is extraordinary to look at . Their catalogue of songs is absolutely amazing. The only songwriters more successful than the Bee Gees,’ he said ‘are The Beatles, and not by much.’

The producer Graham King initially hired Anthony McCarten (who wrote Queen film Bohemian Rhapsody) to write a Bee Gees screenplay. However, Branagh said ‘I have not seen that version (McCarten’s). When I arrived there was already a new starting point with Ben and Graham.’

Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider and Jane Featherstone are producing the picture with King. Casting has not yet started.

There had been rumours that Bradley Cooper was being considered to portray Barry Gibb, but his representatives said there was no truth in them.

Busy Branagh is also directing, and starring with Lolita Chakrabarti, in a new production of Terence Rattigan’s The Browning Version at the Riverside Studios from August 5.

It’s not everyday that you get to strangle one of our greatest actresses! 

A fight broke out on set when Tamara Lawrance came face to face with Killing Eve star Fiona Shaw.

But fortunately it was all in a day’s work for a new thriller.

Lawrance (pictured with Shaw and Jack Lowden) smiled and said: ‘It was nice to have a little struggle and strangle with the great Fiona Shaw. She just said go for it, so I did, and we both landed on the floor.

‘We got up and there were probably one or two more takes. Fiona demystifies any fear you might have.’ They star in Kindred along with Lowden, who also produced the film with Dominic Norris .

A fight broke out on set when Tamara Lawrance (pictured) came face to face with Killing Eve star Fiona Shaw. But fortunately it was all in a day’s work for a new thriller

In Kindred, Tamara — who won awards when she starred with Lowden three years ago in the BBC drama The Long Song — plays Charlotte, an expectant mum who discovers that she’s being psychologically terrorised by her deceased partner’s mother Margaret (Shaw) and her weird estate manager Tom (Lowden).

During filming in Ireland (though the film is set in Scotland), Tamara stayed alone in a small cottage ‘in the middle of nowhere’. It wasn’t lost on her that her circumstances were redolent of what Charlotte was enduring.

‘There were elements of the experience in which I felt quite alone,’ she told me. All of which added layers to her compelling performance.

She was grateful, though, for the occasional visit to the pub with co-stars, crew and director Joe Marcantonio. And though she’s ‘not a drinker at all’ especially of beer and stout, she did enjoy the ‘velvety taste’ of half a pint of Guinness. ‘And it was all the better having it on home soil in Ireland.’

Lowden was initially approached to act in Kindred but he was encouraged to join Norris in sharing producing duties as well as playing the ordinary-looking but creepy, Tom.

‘I do enjoy acting but I never felt it was enough for me. I get so bored easily and I found that on film sets you’re sitting around between takes and I was getting itchy feet,’ he said.

In Kindred, Tamara — who won awards when she starred with Lowden three years ago in the BBC drama The Long Song — plays Charlotte, an expectant mum who discovers that she’s being psychologically terrorised by her deceased partner’s mother Margaret (Shaw) and her weird estate manager Tom (Lowden)

Pushed in at the deep end, he joined in on everything from developing the script, location hunting to suggesting that Marcantonio look at Tamara to play the role that dominates the film, which is available on Sky Cinema from today.

‘A lot was asked of Tamara — and she head-butted it,’ the Scottish-born star said. There are other screen projects that he’s developing including a film planned for production next year.

Meanwhile, he’s working with Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas and Jonathan Pryce filming Mick Herron’s brilliant Slow Horses spy thriller for Apple TV+.

He plays River Cartwright — a sort of 007 wannabe. ‘River’s an all-action guy who looks like he has all the answers, but he’s a f***–up,’ Lowden explained. 

Hairspray, the musical starring Michael Ball and Les Dennis, had a rodent problem during its first preview at the English National Opera on Monday night. 

During the Good Morning Baltimore number, Lizzie Bea, playing Tracy, daughter of Ball’s character Edna Turnblad, sings of the ‘rats on my street / all dance at my feet.’

At that moment a mechanical furry rat was supposed to scurry across the stage but it got stuck in the wings. 

Hairspray, the musical starring Michael Ball and Les Dennis, had a rodent problem during its first preview at the English National Opera on Monday night

During the Good Morning Baltimore number, Lizzie Bea, playing Tracy, daughter of Ball’s character Edna Turnblad, sings of the ‘rats on my street / all dance at my feet’

‘I noticed it wasn’t there,’ said Jerry Mitchell, show choreographer, ‘but we just carried on.’

The audience did not notice the mishap. They lapped up the musical, and stopped the show when Marisha Wallace sang the anthem-like I Know Where I’ve Been. 

The cast won a prolonged standing ovation at the curtain call.

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