This latest production of Anything Goes offers audiences a highly polished sail on the SS American, replete with camp-as-can-be sailors brandishing mops and tap shoes. The set (designed by Gabriele Juzeliunaite) consists of a white expanse of ship punctuated with portholes and life rings, with a balcony for the orchestra and cheery bunting strung above. Although it is fairly simple its clean execution is highly effective. The placement of the orchestra in full view of the audience was a nice touch and extended to their treatment within the play: one character entered from the midst of the musicians; soloists were able to stand up and be recognised; and they even have their own chorus line at one point in the show. The music produced was energetic, upbeat and perfectly timed to the action.
In fact, the premise of the musical (mistaken identity, farcical hijinks) ensures that a steady stream of calamities come hurtling across the stage for most of the first half. The energy levels never seemed to falter, although it did take a while for some of the accents to settle into place. There were a couple of notably strong duets in this half (‘You’re the Top’ and ‘Friendship’) and the singers’ clarity meant that the audience could fully appreciate Cole Porter’s ludicrous, hilarious lyrics. The common denominator of these two numbers was the character of Reno, played by Kathy Peacock. Peacock is undoubtedly the star of this production. She had an incredible command of the stage and boasted impressive singing, dancing and acting talent, far beyond what is usually expected of student drama.
Disappointingly, the second half was not quite as engaging, relying more on the rapport already built in the previous acts. The transitions between scenes were noticeably clunky and there are fewer songs. That said, the bizarre ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’ that opened this half was probably handled as best as could be, given its incongruity and lengthiness. It was Laurence Belcher‘s rendition of ‘Gypsy in Me’ as the oddly endearing Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, however, that really enlivened the show once more – and garnered the greatest laughs of the evening. The other standout cast member that deserves mention is Nils Behling, as the criminal Moonface, whose defined physical movements, facial expressions and comic timing generated much non-verbal hilarity.
Overall, this is a spectacle of a show and an immensely enjoyable trip to the theatre. There is no ‘weak link’ in the cast and all of the aesthetic elements- set, costume, lighting- worked together in a clear, consolidated vision. Is it a ground-breaking reinvention of the original script? No. Does that matter? Definitely not. This is classic, well-executed musical razzmatazz that will see audiences still singing the show’s tunes for weeks to come. And if that doesn’t have you convinced, it has the most perfectly-timed lowering of a disco ball I’ve ever seen on stage.