Australia saw its first production of Anything Goes nearly 80 years ago, and despite there have being many revivals since, it seems incredible that this show still has the power to delight and entertain contemporary audiences.
However, despite its hopelessly silly storyline following the antics of a disparate group of unlikely characters aboard a trans-Atlantic liner, its cardboard cut-out characters, and its hoary old ‘boom-boom’ jokes, the show still provides a surprisingly agreeable peg for a collection of Cole Porter’s best songs, which in this production are superbly sung and staged.
But there is much more to this production than Porter’s songs. Fresh from their successes with Sweet Charity and La Cage Aux Folles, the talented team of director, Dean Bryant, and choreographer, Andrew Hallsworth, have again applied their skills to assembling a first-rate cast with the talents to bring these cardboard cut-out characters to life, and supported them with brilliant choreography and staging to produce a stylish, effervescent production which not only respects the source material, but scintillates from the cleverly staged ‘freeze frame’ overture until the final well-earned standing ovation.
Caroline O’Connor in the central role as Reno Sweeney, night club singer extraordinaire, dazzles with a powerhouse performance that is pure solid gold Broadway leading lady. With a power-house voice which would likely make even Ethel Merman blanch, and flawless phrasing and articulation, O’Connor insures that every lyric is crystal clear.
An accomplished comedienne, O’Connor is also a formidable dancer, a talent she displays to excellent effect in the brilliantly staged, marathon first act tap-dance finale, where it’s impossible to tear your eyes away from her even when the stage is awash with other spirited dancers.
Todd McKenney is almost unrecognisable as the foppish Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and clearly relishes this role. Although he doesn’t get to tap-dance, McKenney does get to show off his dancing chops in a terrific tango, The Gypsy in Me.
As Moonface Martin, the gangster on the run, Wayne Scott Kermond calls on his unrivalled mastery of classic vaudeville shtick to create a terrific comic performance. His duet with O’Connor (Friendship) and his solo turn (Be like the Bluebird) provide two of many highlights during the evening. His teaming with the rubber-faced and leggy Deborah Krizak as his moll, Erma, is a masterstroke. Their scene in his cabin is hilarious. Later Krizak gets her own moment to shine in Buddy Beware.
Claire Lyon and Alex Rathgeber are perfectly cast as the romantic leads. Both are personable, superb singers and excellent dancers, which they get to display in the beautifully staged All Through the Night. Elsewhere, Rathgeber even proves a dab hand at comedy.
A particular pleasure of this production is watching how experienced troupers like Gerry Connelly, Carmen Duncan, and Bartholomew John add lustre to the show by making the most of the limited opportunities offered by their roles, convincingly demonstrating the old adage “There are no small parts, only small actors”.
Dale Ferguson’s costumes are elegant, and although some of the superstructure of his liner is puzzling, his ‘set adaption’ (?) provides an appropriate and attractive environment for the action. Peter Casey’s fine band, perched above the stage in full view of the audience, adds special pleasure of its own by creating exactly the right ambience for Cole Porter’s lovely score to weave its special magic in a production which offers much to delight.
Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point
Season continues to 31 October 2015
Bookings: 1300 723 038 or online at: www.sydneyoperahouse.com
For more information, visit: www.anythinggoesmusical.com.au for details.
Image: Caroline O’Connor as Reno Sweeney and Cast in Anything Goes – photo by Jeff Busby
Review: Bill Stephens