Anything Goes

Wed 15th – Sat 18th February 2012

reviews

Will Clothier

at 02:55 on 16th Feb 2012

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Anything Goes, a 1930s romantic farce with the music of American composer Cole Porter, was revived in 2011 for an extended Broadway run, earning critical success and nine Tony nominations. The Trevelyan College Musical Society rode on this wave in fine style, redeeming the frivolous narrative with ebullient comic interpretations and strong vocal performances.

The musical is set on an ocean-liner on its way to England, with reluctant stock broker Billy Crocker’s on-board pursuit of the soon-to-be married Hope Harcourt the central thread of the story, which is hung around a series of disguises and mistaken identities. The lack of credible emotional elements in the musical meant that the quality of the comic performances and singing ability of the cast were vital.

And TCMS did not disappoint. The main cast all displayed strong vocal talents, despite a few strained notes, with the female leads being particularly impressive. Sophie Blaney, as Reno, displayed a powerful, bold voice in ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’, backed by the chorus, while Natalie Goodwin (Hope) sang each note perfectly and with an operatic purity. On the whole, the cast avoided the easy flaw of slipping conspicuously away from characters’ accents while singing. In particular, Josh Edwards (playing the aristocratic but admittedly dreadlocked Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) found the difficult balance of maintaining his jittery character as well as singing with lucidity and authority, in ‘Gypsy in Me’. Indeed, one of the highlights of the show came midway through this song, when the stuffy Evelyn tears off his tweed suit to reveal flared trousers, and a side to him that was previously concealed.

This was not the only accomplished comedic performance, and credit should go to the other male leads for their equally multifaceted roles. Michael Galea’s portrayal of the whiskey-soaked Elisha Whitney was well judged, while Adam Thompson as Billy Crocker adapted to the changing guises that were required of him and proved a good anchor in his partnership with ‘Moonface Martin’. The portrayal of this showboat gangster, by George Haynes, was an audience favourite – the actor showed deft comic instinct with charismatic physicality, an expressive face, and precise timing. The changing rapport between Moonface and Reno in ‘Friendship’ was well established, in a rendition that captured the characters’ relationship, especially in the choreography.

The choreography throughout the whole play was solid, and inventive at times, capturing the feel of the interwar American era, though occasionally the synchronicity of the ensemble lacked tightness. The frequent dance breaks gave variety, and the Angels, a female quartet, exhibited impressive tap-dancing during ‘Anything Goes’ in Act I. Cole Porter’s music was handled expertly by the band, and the sections of incidental music managed, just about, to avoid battling against on-stage dialogue, as can often mar student theatre.

The potential issue with Anything Goes is that the storyline lacks edge and sincere feeling, but strong comic execution combined with a lively, masterfully played score and accomplished vocals throughout raised the play a level.

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