It’s delightful, it’s delicious, it’s de-lovely’ a dose of madcap antics aboard the S. S. American ocean liner bound from New York to London is just that. Cole Porter’s definitive musical Anything Goes originally presented in the Lincoln Centre Theatre New York City and now showcased by Opera Australia-John Frost productions is playing at the Opera House in Sydney until October 31, 2015.
Caroline O’Connor, Todd McKenney and a cast of thirty thrilled the audience with hilarious comedy capers, snappy repertoire, energetic dances and of course the classic Cole Porter songs.
A spectacular set recreated the lines and dimensions of a bar from the 1930’s. The horizontal and vertical bands of orange light illuminated the Astro Bar with effervescence and the zing of the cocktail hour. Ladies and gentlemen were at the bar prior to the commencement of the show and this fashioned an intimacy with the audience that transported them to the luxurious world of the wealthy.
The orchestra struck up the Overture and immediately focused the audience on the music.
Romance and nostalgia oozed, and mesmerising and melodic tunes erupted.
The audience was enfolded by a rainbow of familiar compositions.
The scene was set with last drinks on land before boarding the ocean liner the next day.
The musical was to chronicle the uncharted waters of relationships, mistaken identities and foiled zany schemes on the cruise of a lifetime following the frolicking course of the S.S. American.
Then the fabulous set design by Dale Ferguson of the tri-level liner was revealed.
The grandeur of the double arched staircase created the lavish ambience of the opulent lifestyle aboard.
The façade beneath was versatile in allowing for swift and efficient scene changes.
The orchestra was exposed in an upper deck giving the audience access and the musician’s prominent roles in the production of the musical numbers.
They played the shifting rhythms and rousing melodies of Cole Porter’s sparkling score with verve and panache.
In Act 1 Billy Crocker (Alex Rathgeber) a young Wall Street broker working for the wealthy Elisha Whitney (Bartholomew) fell in love at first sight with Hope Harcourt (Claire Lyon).
He later learned she was a so called wealthy heiress.
However his boss was about to travel to London as well as Billy’s friend Reno (Caroline O’Connor) an evangelist turned nightclub singer who had romantic feelings for Billy.
When Billy returned to dockside to bid his farewells to his boss he realized that the love of his life was on board travelling with her fiancé Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Todd McKenny).
Later it was revealed that the planned marriage was orchestrated by Mrs Harcourt (Carmen Duncan) as a desperate attempt at a business merger to secure her own financial future.
Billy was desperate to win Hope’s heart and stowed away on the ship.
Meanwhile also on board was a gangster Moonface Martin (Wayne Scott Kermond) and his girlfriend Erma (Debora Krizak) disguised as a minister and a missionary.
Needless to say lots of fun and confusion abound as assumed and real identities were confused and manipulated.
Hope had also been unable to stop thinking about Billy and conspirator plans were hatched by Moonface and Reno to reunite the lovers.
Meanwhile Evelyn was not particularly pleased with his impending marriage so this was a further endorsement for breaking the engagement.
The finale of Act 1 was the music and lyrics of Anything Goes delivered with all the exuberance and rollicking fun appropriate for the show’s title song.
The tap dancing sparkled with syncopated routines, contagious enthusiasm and pure undiluted entertainment.
This toe-tapping song was vigorously performed by cast and chorus and left the audience panting for more.
In Act 11 Billy and Moonface’s confessions about their false identities led to the Captain (Gerry Connolly) sending them to the brig.
The mock spiritual song Blow, Gabriel, Blow was then staged by Reno and Company and this restored the mood of revival.
Billy, Moonface and Reno devised a plan of escape and cunningly used Evelyn’s confession about an indiscretion with ‘Plum Blossom’ to force a change of marriage plans.
Finally this resulted in the desired outcomes all round, Billy and Hope got married as did Reno and Evelyn and Mrs Harcourt and Elisha Whitney.
Like the fairy tales everyone lived happily ever after.
The dialogue linked the various stories together but Anything Goes was ultimately all about the passionate, sleek music and the wry, versatile and romantic lyrics.
Cole Porter was a gifted composer and song writer and this musical remains one of his foremost successes.
The musical has been revived several times throughout the world and this exciting new Australian production has been brilliantly directed and choreographed by the Helpmann Award winning team Dean Bryant and Andrew Hallsworth.
The innovative duo infused in the production a vibrant energetic dynamic that resonated with the audience. The thread of comical gestures, situations and words was sympathetically orchestrated by the pair.
The dance numbers were choreographed and staged to thrill and rouse the audience.
Carolyn O’Conner was electrifying and her stage presence awe inspiring. She was a magnate for eliciting the true colours of Cole Porter’s music and lyrics.
She captured the quirks and eccentricities of a singer of the era. Her extraordinary talents and electrifying performance soared.
Todd McKenney was the toast of the audience when he finally broke into dance with Rena in the second act. His magnetism, flair and expertise were exhilarating.
Swishing back his cleverly designed hairstyle with the tilt of his head was charismatic and endearing.
It was ‘Easy to love’ this production, Anything Goes ‘You’re the top’ and ‘All through the night’ the audience savoured the happiness of dazzling entertainment and the thrill of a timeless musical.
Rose Niland, NSW Special Features, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Watch the Trailer