Anything Goes

Date 27th October 2016
Society Urmston Musical Theatre
Venue Urmston Leisure Centre
Type of Production Musical
Director Emma Harris
Musical Director Ed Nurse
Choreographer Rebecca Cooper Bagnall

Report

Author: Kevin Proctor

We’re aboard the S.S. American as it embarks its journey across the Atlantic in the lively, zany, de-lovely madcap musical ‘Anything Goes’ - Cole Porter’s unsurpassed masterpiece that includes some of musical theatre’s greatest showstopping hits.

The vaudeville feel of the show allows each character at least one moment to shine centre stage and Kathleen Valentine takes the lead as the plucky Reno Sweeney with a blend of charming and sassy wit. The energy she exudes is abundant. This is one of those star quality, triple threat roles which demands spades of stamina and gusto from its player which Kathleen tackled with might.

Matthew Roughley doesn’t quite have the smooth, laid back, easy listening vocal tones commonly associated to this era but nonetheless I fell for his portrayal of Billy from the beginning. He looked the part, infected us with his energy and executed the playful humour with vigour – sharing the weight of the production with Kathleen.

Yvonne Bissett composes a more memorable Evangeline Harcourt than many other interpretations of the character I’ve seen, her gold-digging escapades elevate the humour on numerous occasions.   

The orchestra, under the conduction of Ed Nurse, performed majestically. I appreciate that many of his players may be used to being out of sight or down in a pit but here, being on level with the majority of the audience, myself included, it was rather distracting when they were chatting with their musician neighbour and lighting up their phones during some scenes.   

The biggest surprise of the evening was Lauren Massey’s adorable performance as Hope Harcourt, who looked a picture with her sweet nature which warmed your heart and that alluring, unassuming voice rang out on multiple delightful moments. Lauren was a first-rate class act in a role which suited her to a tee.

Adam Garnet plays the awkward English fiancé, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, who had the tendency to big-up his performance from hearing laughter responses in the audience, sometimes causing him to fight back the giggles himself. On occasion his act was thrown off balance but Adam certainly has the capability to be quite brilliant with some fine tuning, a bit of reining-in and controlling his mounds of energy.     

We got a well-constructed and smart looking set which, for the most part acted as the deck of the ship which had been masterfully crafted in house by Alan and his team. We had some gorgeous costumes – some were striking, others were less flattering. Often when hiring costumes, the chorus can sometimes get a raw deal but the quality seemed to maintain whether principal or not which was refreshing, though whoever did the measuring of some cast members perhaps needed a second opinion.  

Choreography was carried out by a skilled Rebecca Cooper Bagnall. The greatest exhibition of her work in the show was undeniably the act one finale when the cast perform the title number which was the most exciting segment of the evening. She had an enthusiastic troupe of dancers who did her proud for the most part. This show is the most choreographically challenged I’ve seen from the adult squad of UMT so this was a valiant undertaking which Rebecca should feel the utmost reward.    

Does nobody have a cute little dog that could have been used for Evangeline’s pooch? The teddy looked shameful, it was a little disappointing that something to at least appear more realistic wasn’t sourced.  

What musical of this genre would be complete without a comedic gangster? Bill Platt was a riot as Moonface. Bill is the same in whatever he does, which is not really meant as a criticism – I can’t possibly criticise something that works. He never fails to amaze me how he can take on such a variety of characters and make each of them work so well while seeming to play the same character for each. It actually makes me enjoy and relish his performances even more.  

The shows director, Emma Harris had cast this show admirably. I’m a firm believer that 90% of good directing is good casting (the other 10% is just common sense) and I suspect that Emma hums a similar tune. The usual areas that I mention need improvements in UMT shows are the factors which still let this production down slightly but at the same time I’m so happy to report that I can now see these areas improving so I don’t want to dampen this review with the ‘same old’ grumbles – especially when I can see such positive improvements in these areas. Emma had guided a huge cast through their paces to present a very decent production indeed, certainly one of the best, if not the best, I’ve seen from this society to date.