” Anything Goes” 15 June 2013 New Wimbledon Theatre
Thank you very much for inviting me to Wimbledon Light Opera Society’s production of “Anything Goes” recently at the New Wimbledon Theatre. Thanks also to Katie Lucy for making the ticket arrangements.
The S.S. American, sailing from New York to England, carries an unusual group of passengers. Included amongst them are a gangster (Moonface Martin), a wealthy debutante and her mother (Hope and Evangeline Harcourt), a nightclub singer (Reno Sweeny), and a wealthy New York businessman and his stowaway assistant (Elisha Witney and Billy Crocker). It turns out that Hope is Billy’s long-lost love. Unfortunately, she is now engaged to a wealthy Englishman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. After a series of comedic happenings, Billy manages to win back Hope. Meanwhile, Billy’s friend, Reno, manages to seduce and win Lord Evelyn. All this happens while Moonface Martin attempts to escape the law and Hope’s mother strives to maintain her social status.
WLOS last performed ‘Anything Goes’ in 2007 at the London Oratory School but I was delighted that the society could perform a show, which is obviously a favourite, back in their own borough some six years later. Not only a return to the borough but in such a prestigious venue as the New Wimbledon Theatre. It does make it an expensive night out for your patrons though – I myself felt a bit ‘mugged’ by the venue. Despite receiving a complimentary ticket, I still had little change out of £20 for parking, a programme, a bottle of water and an ice cream.
‘Anything Goes’ is a very popular show on the amateur circuit because of the fantastic Cole Porter score, high energy production numbers and a variety of ‘colourful’ characters. With the society returning to the New Wimbledon Theatre, choosing a show which is likely to sell is a major contributory factor and I hope you were able to balance your books. I thought your production team put together a production that the society can be justly proud of. It was lively, upbeat and delivered with pace. The strong lead principals overcame the weaknesses in the script and delivered an entertaining show. There was an inevitable shortage of men which was highlighted during the crew numbers. This is a ‘production number’ show and those particular numbers had plenty of energy and drive. This production was well cast. I myself have directed and performed in this show as well as seeing it on many, many occasions and I thought your cast was very well balanced. My only slight criticisms were with sightlines – particularly during ‘You’re the Top’. One or two accents went awry and there are times in the script when physical and dated comedy is required. The whole business with the seagull and one or two others moments just fell flat but that of course is the fault of the script and not the society but I would’ve been tempted to make the odd slight cut.
During the Overture, the company were involved in business mingling around the bar waiting to go and board the ship. The familiar Scenic Projects amid ship set is extremely versatile as it offers plenty of space downstage whilst offering split levels to give the production scale and interest. This is particularly effective during production numbers when the better movers can come downstage and use the plentiful space whilst the less entrancing movers can ‘decorate’ the upper deck and stairs yet still contribute significantly. This also allows sufficient space for the cabins of Whitney and Evelyn as well as the brig to be brought in.
The costumes and props were great although some of the sailors could do with a lesson on using an iron. The red dresses in ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’ and the beautiful yellow, shimmering dress for Hope were particularly eye-catching. On the evening I attended all technical matters ran smoothly, efficient Sound, a strong Lighting plot and a hasty crew under Stage Manager Nicholas Pinks.
As you would expect from, in particular more recent WLOS shows, this was a pretty slick, colourful and upbeat production. Director Janet Huckle had her cast well directed and rehearsed. Cole Porter’s fantastic score was brought to life by Tom Theakston as Musical Director and his hard working orchestra. The Choreography of Mithu Lucraft (and Katherine Richardson) was particularly impressive. Especially as additional dancing was added in to give the company a bit more to do. ‘You’re the Top’ was beautifully sung and portrayed good energy but I think Reno needed to rise from her barstool a bit earlier. ‘There’ll always be a Lady Fair’ was good but some bass notes were out. ‘Blow Gabriel Blow’ was fantastic – sultry, sexy and gave an opportunity to double the amount of angels and supplement the dancing. There was plenty of action for everyone and a hard working ensemble was kept busy throughout. Not only in the production numbers but when the deck needed passengers taking a walk etc there was plenty of stage interest.
A large cast was in evidence and whilst I can’t comment on everyone individually, I shall mention the main principals;
Elizabeth Burton – Reno Sweeney – Elizabeth gave a sassy, edginess to the character and belted out the showstoppers with great aplomb.
Tom Cane – Billy Crocker – Tom as the juvenile lead, with his tongue firmly in his cheek, put his own angle on this traditionally flat character and extracted both the comedy and sensitivity of the part.
Amanda Stewart – Hope Harcourt – Again, one could say that Hope is a fairly ‘boring, one dimensional’ part but Amanda gave the character some depth of personality.
Seumas Grey – Moonface Martin – Seumas revelled in this fantastic comedy role and showed his composure and good comedy awareness – a strong performance.
Angela Daniel – Mrs Harcourt – the brunt of many jokes, yet Angela remained in her character and kept a stiff upper lip.
Jason Thomas – Lord Evelyn – This was a real gem of a cameo performance which border-lined on the outrageous. Jason looked comfortable bumbling and frolicking around and was a real audience favourite.
Katy Goddard – Erma – Katy is more than capable of impressing in much bigger roles than Erma but she gave punch and pizzazz to a much under-utilised character. ‘Buddy Beware’ was amongst the highlights of the evening.
Al Clogston – Elisha Whitney – this was a nice role for Al and he conveyed the awkwardness and pomposity of the character very well.
The Angels (too many to mention individually) both dancing and singing were a great asset to the production.
All sub principals backed up the production successfully. Ian Ward (Captain) and Nick Simpson (Purser) were a good foil for each and exuded much mirth. Robert Owen (as Henry T Dobson) was suitably pious. John Huckle and Robin Clifford were reprising their roles (as Luke and John) and whilst not particularly convincing as Asian gentlemen, they were suitably amusing in their comedic business. Matthew Hawkins (Barman), Penny Stone (Lady in Wheelchair) and of course Banks (Cheeky) also deserve a mention in despatches.
Once again thank you for inviting me to the New Wimbledon Theatre and best wishes for your next production – ‘Honk’. I look forward to seeing you again soon and if I can be of any assistance at any time, please do not hesitate to contact me.
London Area 3