Review: Anything Goes (Mirvish)

Anything Goes Tour

Mirvish presents the classic Cole Porter musical Anything Goes at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre

Anything Goes opened last night at the Princess of Wales Theatre. My friend Elaine and I have been eagerly waiting to see it. We’re both fans of what I think of as big old-fashioned musicals; the kind with at least one catchy song that you hum under your breath as you leave the theatre, at least one big dance number, a big cast, and great costumes.

That was definitely Anything Goes. We weren’t disappointed. We loved it.

The plot is thin at best.  Billy meets Hope and falls in love but Hope is supposed to marry Evelyn. Reno loves Billy, Evangeline is broke, Eli is rich, Moonface is on the run and Erma just wants to have fun.

It’s 1934 and they’re all on an ocean liner going from New York to England. Madcap antics and cocktails are the order of the day.  Of course there’s a happy ending.

Anything Goes was first produced in 1934 with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and the original book by P. G. Wodehouse and Gary Bolton, and Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The new book is by Timothy Crouse (Russel’s son) and John Weidman.

Cole Porter’s lyrics are witty, elegant, and sophisticated. There’s a line in “It’s De-Lovely” that I think is wonderful.

“This verse I started seems to me
The Tin-Pantithesis of a melody, “

It’s hard to tell how much of the dialogue is left from the original book. Probably not much given that it’s been rewritten so many times. I like to think that there is still some P. G. Woodhouse left in the mix.

The casting was perfect. Rachel York played Reno Sweeney channelling Mae West which I found distracting for about one and a half minutes and loved after that.  She has one of those ‘belt it out voices’ that are perfect in a show like this.

Speaking of belt it out voices… I did notice that the sound was uneven for some of the actors whose voices weren’t that strong. I always find that distracting.

The other characters I loved were Moonface Martin played by Fred Applegate – he had some of the best lines in the show and Elisha Whitney played by Derek Kelly.

The costumes were gorgeous, the kind of clothes that wealthy people wore to cross the Atlantic on a luxury liner in the thirties. Clothes that always make me want them. It’s always about the little details that make them so lovely. Oh, and the way they flow and move.

There were a couple of things that Elaine and I both really liked about the set. It was a ship seen side-on and the deck was the main part of the stage. There were lighting effects that made it look as if water was reflecting on to the ship. Very nice. The cabins were boxes the slid onto the stage.

We both thought that Act One was stronger than Act Two. We enjoyed both but thought that Act One had better songs.

The Act One finale was Reno Sweeney and most of the cast singing and dancing to “Anything Goes”. All that wonderful tap-dancing in unison; if I could see that every day, or even once a week, I’d be a happy woman. We were on such a high that we pretty much floated outside at intermission. The man standing next to us shook his head and said “That was just marvellous. Really amazing”. And it was, marvellous and happy


  • Anything Goes is playing at Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King St West) until August 18
  • Performances are Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm and Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 pm.
  • Ticket prices range from $35.00 to $130.00
  • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416.872.1212 or toll-free at 1.800.461.3333, or in person at the box office

Photo of  Roundabout Theatre Company’s ANYTHING GOES. Pictured: Rachel York and Company. Photo Credit: © Joan Marcus, 2012