Anything Goes by NYMT
I’ve been a fan of NYMT since stumbling across their production of Bugsy Malone in 1997, so I was thrilled to be able to review one of their annual London productions for Musical Theatre Musings.
Anything Goes is a 1934 musical, set aboard the ocean liner S.S. American, en route from New York to England. On board is a cornucopia of colourful characters: nightclub singer/evangelist Reno Sweeney, her pal Billy Crocker who has stowed away to pursue the socialite Hope Harcourt, travelling with her mother Evangeline Harcourt but who is engaged to English aristocrat Lord Evelyn Oakley. Added complications to the plot include Billy’s stockbroker boss Elisha Whitney and other stowaways-the gangster Moonface Martin (disguised in this version as a nun), his ‘moll’ Erme, ( a charismatic performance from Sarah Dare) and the two oriental gamblers disguised as trainee priests.
From the moment we saw diminutive 12 year-old Milo Hallet’s Elisha Whitney, it was obvious that Alex Sutton’s production was going to be fun. Every comedic moment throughout the show was creative, detailed and entertaining, bringing new life to some of the Cole Porter standards. Whoever would have thought it was possible to physically show on stage every object mentioned in ‘You’re the Top’, for example? Adding to the comedy value were the ship’s purser (Jamie O’Leary), Miguel Rivilla as Moonfaced Martin, and the inspired casting of Spike Maxwell as Mrs Evangeline Harcourt. I also enjoyed the extra level of disguise of females disguised as men disguised as trainee priests!
This was beautifully balanced by the romantic moments in the show, which were enhanced with lighting, costume and effects. As the ‘star-crossed’ lovers, Toby Turpin and Lulu-Mae Pears were perfectly cast as Billy and Hope. Both had outstanding vocal and dancing ability, and Turpin delivered both the romantic and comedic sides of the character of Billy which is central to the plot.
Overseeing all the shenanigans was Olivia Hallet as Reno, who brought every quality needed to fulfil this role. She delivered all of her iconic musical numbers with just the right edge and tone to her voice, and with such a relaxed and nuanced performance that she was completely convincing as the experienced nightclub singer.
Underpinning every moment was the brilliant ensemble of sailors, passengers and Reno’s Angels, each one of whom sang, danced and acted with style, panache and such expressive faces that made every moment count. All had great voices, and the harmonies were tight, all helped by the excellent sound design, and the sympathetic playing of the talented young musicians in the band, led by MD Jordan Li-Smith.
With Lee Proud as co-choreographer with Adam Haigh, expectations were high for some signature daring and demanding dance numbers performed in a limited space. I was not disappointed – it was sensational. Highlights included the beautiful Hope and Billy pas de deux, the fabulous Gypsy number and the mind-blowing tap number, when every cast member performed flawlessly.
The Art Deco-inspired set for Anything Goes, with the front of the ship design cleverly echoed in the surrounding flats, included two mobile doorways and some luggage and trucks, which neatly transformed into all that was needed to indicate the various locations and furniture. Costumes were good throughout, with attention to detail, including footwear and hairstyles which gave the show an authentic look.
What an enjoyable afternoon, and what a pleasure to enjoy the performances of the theatre stars of the not-too-distant future.
Review by Sheila Arden
To find out more about NYMT visit their website.
If you like this review of Anything Goes you might also like my review of The Little Princess also by NYMT.