Anything Goes

 

CAST LIST

PRODUCTION TEAM

               
Reno Sweeney Karen Broadbent Elisha Whitney John Shepherd Purser Brian Minchin Director Will Harris
Hope Harcourt Jacky Cook (nee Davis) Erma Clare Allsop Angels Anna Chidgey Musical Director Richard Hare
Billy Crocker Shane Wolfe Evangeline Harcourt Laurie Bright   Lucy Harris Choreographer Christine Morris
Moonface Martin Tony Wall Luke & John Rhodri Harris & Mark Williams   Sarah Kennedy    
Lord Evelyn Oakleigh Steve Leitch Captain Dave Beavis   Alice Vassallo Photography Doug Spooner

 

Surrey Advertiser

Diane Ecclestone

 

This Cole Porter musical, set abroad the SS American in the 1930s, is an extravaganza of glorious songs and its comedy pokes fun at the days when gangsters were celebrities.

It's brilliant revival at the National Theatre a few years ago inspired director Will Harris to embark on a production of it with Wallington Operatic. A transatlantic voyage of frivolity and fun, it is an ideal vessel for amateurs, although choreographer Christine Morris was rather stymied when it came to the big ensemble routines which are usually showstoppers since this company was not strong on dance. Staging was uninspired and opportunities for 'business' were sometimes overlooked.

The good news is that there were some lovely characterisations and a vibrant leading lady - Karen Broadbent as nightclub evangelist Reno Sweeney.

Shane Wolfe was a cute Billy, though with a weak singing voice.

Jacky Cook as his beloved Hope made up for it with her beautiful voice. 

Steve Leitch was good value as twistish English Lord Oakleigh and gave us an exuberant solo The Gypsy in Me, John Shepherd slightly underplayed the comedy gift of Billy's tycoon boss Elisha Whitney and Laurie Bright provided another of her repertoire of funny ladies as Evangeline Harcourt. Tony Wall was older then the usual rogues gallery of Moonface Martins but created an enjoyable less-then-ruthless baddie.

 

 

NODA

Bill Edwards

 

This production provided two firsts for me. The first of these being my first time at the Secombe Theatre, and the second being my first time attending a Wallington O.D.S production. The former presented an impressive foyer with a classy decorated multi level bar and cafe area. However on entering the auditorium I became a little concerned for the evening's proceedings upon seeing the somewhat narrow pros arch, which indicated a rather small stage and I wondered f it was too small to accommodate a show the size of Anything Goes. That concern was realised once the curtain went up. Due obviously to the fact that the show predominately takes place on the aft deck of the SS America - the set of which too up most of the stage - the opening night club scene had to be played flat as it had to be played so far downstage. The opening was well orchestrated in brining on various members of the chorus to have a last drink before making their way to the ship, which helped to create the atmosphere of a busy bar and the excitement of going on a voyage, however, at times it was a little crowded and messy due to the depth and meant that the entrances and exits didn't flow and were single file. The set of the SS America followed the usual design - two staircases either side, with a bridge across the top, and credit should be given here to building your own set, and it certainly looked clean and impressive, however again there were occasions when using the stairs and upper area it was apparent that space was tight. The cabins and brig were well designed well designed and again looked good, but due to restrictions in storage space and onstage were also a little cramped.   

Will Harris' overall staging and Christine Morris' choreography was for the most part slick and tidy, but unremarkable and lacked real polish. The big set numbers such as Anything Goes and Blow, Gabriel, Blow were energetic enough, with everyone involved giving their all, but didn't have that real sparkle about them, possibly due to the performers feeling restricted by the cramped stage space (particularly those set on stairs and upper bridge) and so not feeling able to give full vent to their enjoyment, however, these were still highly enjoyable and entertaining numbers. The staging for Friendship  was a little strange as Reno's moves were tight and choreographed where as Moonface seemed to be very loose and pretty much doing his own thing. In fairness to Christine I have to say that I think this was down to poor execution by Moon rather than poor choreography on her part. I also felt more could have been done with Your The Top. As with many of the numbers in this show it has become a standard and yet there seemed large parts of it that were static, which is fair enough, but then the static parts needed to be sold much stronger by the performers, which didn't really do. There were also moments when the cast were obviously not thinking on their feet, in particular during There's No Cure Like Travel, one of the Angels' hats fell off in a rather awkward area of the stage and instead of one of the cast just picking it up (or the Angel herself of that matter given that an appropriate opportunity almost immediately presented itself) and remove it everyone just stepped around it trying to pretend it didn't exist and so stayed on the floor of the stage for several minutes to the point where I thought it would stay there for the entire duration of Act I until a sailor finally picked it up and removed it. The dialogue in places, particularly in Act I, lacked pace and so it dragged making it lethargic.

Richard Hare's Musical Direction seemed assured and confident. There were times when the band was too loud drowning out the singing, but this was as much due to the poor sound engineering as anything else. They maintained good tempo throughout and sounded energetic. The harmonies were mostly tidy, but one notable failing was in Bon Voyage which suffered from poor vocal balance when the women completely drowned out the men.

The line was led by Karen Broadbent as Reno Sweeney who is an experienced performer judging from her biography in the programme and she led the line well. A very charismatic performer, her dancing was excellent and her singing was good. The characterisation didn't quite work for me as she was a bit too zany for my taste, which when coupled with that awful blonde curly wig (and completely the wrong type of dress for the opening scene) made her look like an adult Shirley Temple on speed, and she didn't show the more sophisticated, and indeed seductive aspects of a character who is a renowned night club evangelist. She developed a good rapport with the other performers especially Billy and Moonface, which led to some moments throughout. All in all a very good performer, who produced a good performance. Shane Wolfe as Billy Crocker was energetic and attacked the part with gusto. I felt the characterisation needed better light and shade, particularly in his scenes with Hope, he portrayed Billy's love for Hope well enough, but needed to be more tender, which would have made the character less one dimensional as there wasn't enough distinction in his attitudes towards Reno - with whom it is suggested he has had some history - and Hope. As I said this was a performance that didn't lack energy and his dancing was of a good standard, proving light on his feet for a big guy. His singing for the most part was confident, but at times in some of the bigger numbers was a little thin. Cole Porter shows don't provide characters of much depth they are much more about the music but Shane provided a watchable performance that was most enjoyable. The object of his affections, Hope Harcourt was played by the attractive Jacky Cook. Jacky did a very good job, with what is a very wishy-washy character, by instilling a bit of edge and attitude in her, but at the same time retaining the elegance and sophistication of the character. This wasn't a young woman who was just going to accept life as society (or her mother) dictated she has ideas of her own. Her singing was pleasant and lyrical and I especially liked Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye. She bought real light and shade to the character and was very believable in her romantic scenes with Billy. Steve Leitch was comically wonderful as her intended Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. This is a peach of a role when it comes to the comic content of the show and he didn't miss a trick. His delivery, when coupled with his accent and body language made almost every line elicit chuckles from the audience. His song The Gypsy In Me was a high spot of the performance.  

Tony Wall as Moonface Martin seemed to be a popular performer with the audience and he produced a very good characterisation, making the most of every afforded opportunity to get laughs. His Be Like A Blue Bird was very well brokered and received and he maintained the character throughout the song. I did feel at times he was making things up as he went along as his execution of the choreography in Friendship was at times loose and undisciplined, however, this was one of the performance of the show and from a most watchable performer. His sidekick and partner in crime Erma, was played by Clare Allsop. Claire turned in a technically good performance. Her singing and dancing were of highest order, however, I must confess to not liking the characterisation. Instead of coming across as a bubble and sexy girl, that all the guys want to get to know, she seemed sullen and sulky and lacking in womanly wiles. Laurie Bright was suitable overbearing and bullying as Hope's mother Evangeline Harcourt and I particularly found amusing her display of panic at being told the ship was sinking and her rapid change of heart at Whitney's proposal once she discovers he has gone from being a pauper to a zillionaire. Eli Whitney was suitably bombastic as played by John Shepherd, but I felt he lacked the gravitas to be believable in outing the fear of God in people, especially Crocker. he contributed well to the visual gags especially those revolving around his glasses, and he gave a rousing version of The Crew Song.

Overall I found this to be an entertaining and enjoyable production, which given the restrictions of the stage was a good achievement, with some good energetic set pieces and musical numbers. However, it lacked that pace at times and also that final polish to make it really sparkle, but there were many individual component to be admired.

Thank you for an entertaining evening and I hope that the production proved to be both artistically and financially successful.