Last night I watched the video of the 2021 Anything Goes revival, with Sutton Foster and Robert Lindsay. Sutton Foster was good—probably great, but at least over the video editing it was kind of a generic greatness. She is obviously a terrific dancer and singer, and she sang and danced extremely well, and she got laughs with her comic lines, and I don’t have any criticism of her performance at all, actually, except that it seemed like the performance that any terrifically talented actor would give as Reno Sweeney.
And that was a huge contrast with Robert Lindsay, whose Moonface Martin was very much a different Moonface Martin than anyone else’s would have been. I’ve been trying to describe to myself what I think about it… the main thing, I would say, is that there was a tremendous sense of ease to it. He wasn’t phoning it in—he was absolutely present and focused—but he was also clearly determined not to break a sweat. He had the audience eating out of his hand, without appearing to care very much whether he did or not. He also has the ability to wear his costumes—which in this show include a priest’s suit and collar and full white-tie-and-tails—as if they were comfy clothes he had happened to pick up off the floor. He threw in little gestures and vocalizations, seemingly for his own amusement. The effect was endearing, at least to me, at least on the video, at least last night. I can imagine not liking it, but I did like it.
Of course, I have a generally positive feeling about Robert Lindsay, and have since the early 1980s. It seemed like the whole audience in the Barbican had that positive feeling, and he seemed to be counting on that. And, I mean, why not capitalize on the good will?
I suspect that the attitude toward Sutton Foster was different—they had come to see her be brilliant, and she damn’ well needed to be brilliant, and she was, and that was all right. And, as I say, maybe I’m wrong about the audience feeling, since I was watching a video.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
Oddly, I know Robert Lindsey mainly from the BBC Shakespeares of the early 1980s, where he played series of great parts, ranging from small to large. As I look at the history of his career, he seems to be an actor who has gotten to play all the fun parts: in Three Musketeers, Dartagnan. In Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano. In Oliver Twist, Fagin. It just goes on and on.
I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything more recent than his performance as Benedick (of course) in the BBC Much Ado About Nothing from 1984, but even from that I can totally see him giving the kind of performance in Anything Goes that you’ve described. I might have to watch it . . .
The Shakespeare series is mostly what I know him from, although also to some extent from that video of him doing the Lambeth Walk at the Tonys in, like, 1985 or whatever, which I’ve watched several times and also has that sense of ease.
I am reminded of an audition I went to some years ago, when the director looked at my resumé and said “You’ve had all the shitty parts, haven’t you?” Robert Lindsey, not so much.
Thank you for linking to the video! That’s a great performance all around, but Robert Lindsey really has it all going . The moment that stands out in terms of his ease is the big laugh he gives when he (accidentally, I think? see 2:29) drops the hat he has been using to do all sorts of ridiculously difficult moves with perfect ease. Wow!