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FATE and a casting director may have brought Denis Lawson and Kerry Ellis together for the first time but it’s clear they are getting on like a house on fire.
The pair are just two of the major stage stars who will be bringing a spectacular revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes to Manchester in June and you can tell that they can’t wait.
“This is something quite spectacular,” said Denis who plays gangster Moonface Martin in the show. “It’s a big show with a big company, a 15-piece orchestra and it is incredibly energetic. We’re having a lovely time with it.”
His co-star Kerry - who has starred in everything from Wicked to Les Miserables - shared his excitement.
Kerry Ellis and sailors in Anything Goes
“It was such a success at the Barbican last summer and I went to see it,” she said. “I don’t think I was expecting to fall in love with it as much as I did. But it just felt like something really special especially after the last couple of years.
“It was really interesting to be with people celebrating live theatre again. We’re in that position now. People need that relief and this is funny, this is entertaining, it’s moving; the costumes are wonderful and the set great - oh and the actors are OK too!”
Kerry play nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and along with Denis she will also be joined on stage by Simon Callow and Bonnie Langford.
Set on an ocean liner, Anything Goes is a madcap adventure involving a stowaway who is in love with an heiress, a fleeing gangster and much mistaken identity and misunderstandings.
“It’s almost like a farce in some ways, “ said Denis. “Certainly it’s high comedy which strains credibility at times to the limit but that’s what’s such fun about it - it’s wild and it’s out there.”
Simon Callow, Kerry Ellis, Denis Lawson and Bonnie Langford (Picture: Hugo Glendinning)
It also helps that the show features some of Cole Porter’s finest songs including I Get A Kick Out of You and, of course, Anything Goes, both of which Kerry gets to sing.
“I’d sung a couple of the songs in concerts before,” she said, “but with Anything Goes it is so exhilarating to perform in front of an audience. You only have to hear the intro and it’s instantly recognisable.
“It comes with a little bit of pressure because of that expectation but when we perform it, it’s the first time the entire company comes together and you can feel that support on stage and the audience really reacts to it.”
Denis added: “The energy from the stage on that number is quite extraordinary. I think audiences will be surprised and the effect that it has on them.”
On stage Denis and Kerry’s characters form an unlikely double act.
“That is the uniqueness of the story,” said Kerry. “Here you have these two people who are world’s apart but actually are kind of similar. It’s nice to get to play two characters that are not part of a love story. You really can play it as that double act which is really fun and interesting and is unusual to play.
“It is not the usual male-female relationship that’s for sure,” said Denis.
Denis Lawson in Anything Goes
In spite of the many shows they have been in, this is the first time the pair will have worked together.
“That’s the thing with musicals, you are thrown in room with people and have to become a family straight away, “ said Kerry. “There is no time to get to know people. Sometimes people instantly click and that’s what happened with me and Denis.
“We met on the first press day and instantly got along. If you feel at ease with somebody it just makes the whole process wonderful. Denis has been amazing, he’s a ‘leg’ you know, he’s done all these amazing things. For someone like Denis to make me feel comfortable and allow me to be me has been brilliant.”
Although renowned as a singer, Kerry admits that the show has tested her as a dancer.
“That has been a bit daunting as I’ve not done anything like this for such a long time,” she said. “I’m usually employed to sing those big, belty numbers. So when I knew had to get my tap shoes back on I was nervous. It show how long ago it was, I didn’t even own a pair of tap shoes any more.
Kerry Ellis in Anything Goes
“To be front and centre wasn’t where I was most comfortable going in to rehearsals but we have this wonderfully supportive company and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge.”
“I have to say,” said Denis, “that if Kerry hadn’t said anything I would never have known she hasn’t danced for a while. She is brilliant.”
Anything Goes comes to the Palace Theatre before heading back into the West End for a summer run.
“I love Manchester audiences,” said Denis. “They are wonderful to play to and I know they are going to have a great time and we are going to have a great time with them.”
Anything Goes, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Thursday, June 9 to Saturday, June 18. Details from www.atgtickets.com