Saturday, 18 July 2015

Anything Goes - Princess Theatre, Melbourne (17 July 2015)

This show goes to prove that you simply can’t beat the classics. Sheer class from top to bottom, prow to stern, starboard to port, pick your own nautical analogy. From the timeless music and lyrics of Cole Porter to the stunning tap sequence that closes the first act to an array of superb performances this was simply brilliant.    

Caroline O’Connor was an absolute powerhouse as Reno Sweeney. What I liked most about her performance was that she wasn’t afraid to take the mickey out of herself. It was a fun turn with a real glimmer of mischief in the eyes. That and the fact O’Connor can hoof it with the best of them as the title number emphatically demonstrated, and belt out a number like Blow, Gabriel, Blow with such power and precision. Her comedic skills were also impressive with the double act of Friendship with the outstanding Wayne Scott Kermond a highlight.

Kermond was a real driving force bringing flair and charm to the gangster Moonface Martin as well as the Irish Father he disguises himself as on-board the SS American. Yes, there are plenty of hijinks as another interloper, stockbroker Billy Crocker (Alex Rathgeber) is mistaken for the gangster while trying to win the heart of socialite Hope Harcourt (Claire Lyon) who is to be married to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Todd McKenney). The story is fast-paced, witty and very funny as schemes are hatched and foiled leading to a most amusing wedding sequence to end the show.

McKenney was another one who threw caution to the wind and was fabulously goofy as Evelyn. The Gypsy In Me was a camp masterclass that was irresistibly funny. Rathgeber was a handsome and likeable Billy with a superb singing voice that he displayed in so many classic songs – You’re The Top, Easy To Love, It’s De-Lovely, and All Through the Night. The gorgeous Lyon was nicely matched with him and shone on her own during Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye. Understudy Samantha Leigh Dodemaide made for a flighty and sexy Erma with her showpiece number Buddie Beware another highlight.

Gerry Connolly provided lots of droll humour with Carmen Duncan a welcome presence as Hope’s mother. I believe it was another understudy, David Spencer, who played Billy’s boss, Elisha Whitney, who had several well executed comic scenes. Then there was the ensemble that added so much colour and movement and were superb in the massed tap assault of Anything Goes that will probably be the most spectacular sequence I’ll see on a stage all year. Led by O’Connor it was an ecstatic close to the first act.

The set was on two levels with the band upstairs behind the depiction of the prow of the ship. On the bottom level the middle section allowed for individual sets such as cabins to be slid into place and it was all slickly done with multiple entry and exit points that accentuated the slapstick nature of a lot of the material.

The 16 piece orchestra was superb under Musical Director/Conductor Peter Casey and the sound design at the Princess Theatre was immaculate. And how can you beat the music and songs of Cole Porter? It is a roster of amazing numbers and the first act in its construction and execution is musical theatre at its absolute pinnacle.

During this trip I enjoyed Strictly Ballroom and The Lion King has a touch of magic about it but Anything Goes, for me, blows both of those shows out of the water. It elegantly demonstrates what happens when you put a first rate cast in a well written show with a world class score and timeless songs. Sensational.  

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