United Kingdom

Felicity Kendal crews up with Robert Lindsay in this take on Anything Goes, writes PATRICK MARMION 

Anything Goes: Barbican Theatre, London 

Rating:

Beware getting an audience on its feet before the interval. If you raise the roof too early in a show, you're going to need to top it in the second half. And that could prove tricky.

But not in the case of this ecstatic new production of Cole Porter's sassy and gloriously wicked 1934 musical. 

Anything Goes, starring Sutton Foster, Robert Lindsay and Felicity Kendal, has no problem raising the rafters. In fact, it blows them halfway across town.

A crew of tap-dancing sailors and showgirls, on board an ocean liner from New York to London, don't just have the house baying before the interval, they have it stopping the show again in the second half – as well as at the finale. 

Beware getting an audience on its feet before the interval. You're going to need to top it in the second half and that could prove tricky. But not in the case of 1934 musical Anything Goes 

By the end, I couldn't tell if the crowd were more in love with the company, or the company more in love with the crowd.

As party girl Reno Sweeney, Foster is a leading lady crackling with style. She joined the crew after Megan Mullally (of sitcom Will & Grace) dropped out of rehearsals. 

Mullally said 'my body informed me (mainly while at tap class) that I need a few rods replaced'.

Foster is a veteran of American TV comedy, too (she starred in a show called Younger). But she has the additional advantage of having won a Tony Award for playing Reno on Broadway in 2011.

More trinkets and silverware surely await her here. Ten years may have passed, but once again she carries the show with physical dexterity (including eye-popping splits) and effortless comic timing. 

And that voice... Foster sounds like she's got an entire brass section in her larynx from the moment she parps up with her famous opening song I Get A Kick Out Of You. 

Her mission, aboard the SS American, is to help saucy stowaway Billy Crocker (Samuel Edwards) marry his sweetheart, heiress Hope (Nicole-Lily Baisden).

Anything Goes, starring Sutton Foster, Robert Lindsay and Felicity Kendal (pictured during rehearsals), has no problem raising the rafters. In fact, it blows them halfway across town

Trouble is, Hope is the debutante daughter of a highly strung, multi-millionairess (Kendal) – and betrothed to a stuffy English toff (Haydn Oakley).

And that's all before the complication of Lindsay's leathery mobster Moonface Martin, who's disguised as a priest while on the run from the law – with gangster's moll Erma (Carly Mercedes Dyer) in tow.

Dyer revels in her role as the squeaky-voiced sex bomb while Lindsay is a gold-plated Cadillac of a mafioso (Public Enemy Number 13), his own voice transformed into a 'Noo Yoik' accented growl. 

And let's not forget Gary Wilmot, bumbling about the boat as short-sighted zillionaire Elisha Whitney, reduced to using binoculars instead of bifocals when his specs are stolen.

There can be few musicals with more complicated set-ups, and just getting the long list of characters aboard the liner is a colossal undertaking. But it's a show oozing class, thanks to a team of writers who included PG Wodehouse.

The lyrics sparkle – take 'You're the national gallery, you're Garbo's salary'; or maybe 'Kiss me pretty wench, in English or in French' – and there are risque gags, too ('I don't think Erma picked the guy for the length of his pants,' says Moonface).

Kathleen Marshall's production will, however, be best remembered for the choreography.

As party girl Reno Sweeney, Foster (pictured with Robert Lindsay) is a leading lady crackling with style. She joined the crew after Megan Mullally dropped out of rehearsals

The big dance routines are a long time coming, but when they arrive, you know it. The full company tap number Anything Goes at the end of the first half sounds like the Household Cavalry is passing by.

Then, after the interval, we're treated to a full-scale riot of tumbling, clapping and jitterbugging in the nightclub – lifting the crowd to its feet all over again, to the beat of Blow, Gabriel, Blow.

If you can tear your gaze away from the footwork, the steel panels of Derek McLane's white ocean liner set are (literally) riveting. 

The moon and stars smile down, and there are swanky art deco cabins below deck, too.

Quite honestly, when a show packs this much energy, talent, spectacle and swagger in the hold, nothing else goes.

Anything Goes has extended its run at the Barbican until October 31. Sutton Foster remains with the show until October 10, before flying back to NYC to begin rehearsals for The Music Man, with Hugh Jackman.

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