Review: Anything Goes
The Production Company sets sail for 2011 with Cole Porter’s timeless, toe-tapping tuner Anything Goes.
A proven crowd pleaser, Anything Goes has been in high revolve since being relaunched with a new book in 1987. Starring Geraldine Turner, Simon Burke and Marina Prior, it sold out the State Theatre in 1989 and returned for its previous TPC outing in 2001 with Chelsea Gibb and Kane Alexander as Reno and Billy.
A strong creative team has attracted a stellar cast for this latest airing and while the humour, melody and sparkle are all still there, the whole is not quite as great as the sum of its parts. Eliciting plenty of laughs and featuring a couple of terrific dance numbers, the overall production did not quite gel together as it might have.
Clever silhouettes of festive passengers frame the overture and it is immediately evident that Peter Casey has Orchestra Victoria sounding at its effervescent best. Sound Design by System Sound captures all the zing of the peppy orchestrations, with vocals also crisp and clear.
Newcomer Adam Gardnir’s unique staging places the band on a large, solid scaffold, decorated with red life preservers and complete with an impressive overhead deck. While this is a striking backdrop, the lack of central doors to the ship’s cabins impedes the pace of the comedy as all entrances and exits are made from the wings of the wide State Theatre stage.
Costume Designer Fleur Thiemeyer’s red, white and blue theme features some attractive individual pieces but does not allow the lead characters to stand out as they should. The variety of shades of blue does not help either, nor does lighting the rear cyclorama in red and blue. Rhonda Burchmore had 18 costumes as Mame in 2008 but here Reno has a paltry two. (Where is her cute sailor outfit from the publicity photos?) Hope’s pale blue chiffon dress is gorgeous but as a wealthy debutante she would surely have a wedding dress to wear. Lord Evelyn’s tartan ensemble is a hoot, as is Evangeline Harcourt’s vampy, Norma Desmond style look.
A highlight of the night is the act one finale “Anything Goes”. Choreographer Andrew Hallsworth has drilled his dancers to military precision and makes clever use of life preservers as part of the stunning routine. Erma’s “Buddy Beware” is another treat, ending with a spectacular extended lift. “The Gypsy in Me” also displays the kind of wit and delight Hallsworth exhibited in such productions as Sugar and The Boy Friend. Now also taking the helm as Director, supported by Dean Bryant, Hallsworth does not seem to have had the chance to work his magic with the full complement of numbers as the act one duets are somewhat undercooked.
In top form all night, Alex Rathegeber (Billy Crocker) stands out amidst the talented company of performers. Handsome, confident and charming, his singing is absolutely gorgeous and carries much of act one. Rathgeber has proven himself a top notch leading man with this performance.
Amanda Harrison makes a memorable return to the Melbourne stage as Reno Sweeney. Blessed with a mighty belt, her particular gift is in not just singing strongly but also colouring the expression and inflection of her delivery.
Relative newcomer Christy Sullivan gives a delightful performance as Hope Harcourt, particularly when considered in contrast to her role in the recent Next to Normal. With these two solid outings under her belt, 2011 has been a banner year for Sullivan and has firmly placed her on the musical theatre map. Sullivan has a unique timbre and resonance to her soprano voice that is a pleasure to hear.
Todd McKenney is quite hilarious as the goofy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, giving a limber physical performance and landing plenty of laughs. In the supporting role of Erma, Christie Whelan leaves the crowd wanting more. Sporting an unfortunate costume, Whelan’s natural sex appeal nonetheless shines through and she also nails her share of loud laughs.
Wayne Scott Kermond is a natural choice for Moonface Martin, and his sharp moves aid the physical comedy. Anne Wood is a droll Evangeline Harcourt, proving the old adage that there are no small roles, only small actors.
Anything Goes plays at the State Theatre until 24 July.
Photos: Jeff Busby