The Production Company
20 July 2011
State Theatre, the Arts Centre
to 24 July
"In olden days, a glimpse of..." You know the rest, and the only thing stopping the audience from singing along to The Production Company's Anything Goes was that we wouldn't have heard the wow-em-dead cast inject freshness and glittery life into every number of Cole Porter's favourite musical.
Anything Goes is 1930s Broadway. Before Sondheim made us cry and musicals became boutique, there were dames with long legs, sailors with full flasks, matrons with big hats, criminals with violin cases and delightful plots full of de-lovely conveniences, disguises and shenanigans.
Which doesn't make it especially easy to present to savy contemporary audiences, especially when the plot celebrates alcoholism, women are graded on how they fill a girdle and resolves with a the kind of racial stereotyping that is far more shocking than any glimpse of stocking. Oh, I can see the eyes rolling and hear the cries of "political correctness gone mad". Anything Goes is a product of it's time, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't look at it with the sensibilities of our time.
Luckily, directors Andrew Hallsworth and Dean Bryant (whose direction of MTCs recent Next to Normal was so beautiful) appreciate the issues and find a balance between homage, indulgence and satire that creates a hoot of a show that even the most jaded among us have to love.
They ham up the nostalgic glitz, remind us that things like celebrity-mad media never change, and let the audience and the cast have fun with the not-so-pc moments
And having a cast that deserve to run for a year doesn't hurt. Amanda Harrison's sassy Reno tops Ms Merman's, Todd McKenney's Lord Evelyn left even a vego like me wanting more ham, Christy Sullivan (Natalie in Next to Normal) shows that an ingenue called Hope can be more than a floaty dress, and Christie Whelan's (Erma), Alex Rathgeber (Billy), Wayne Scott Kermond (Moonface), Anne Wood (Evangeline), John O'May (Elisha) and the whole ensemble give us the kick that we don't get from champagne.
The Production Company are the nearest thing we have to a time machine to take us back to old-school Broadway. The budgets are tight, but with people like Adam Gardnir creating gorgeous sets from nothing and a team willing to create with their hearts for the love a show, it's not wonder that Anything Goes is the rat's pyjamas.
This review was on AussieTheatre.com
Photo: Jeff Busby