Left – Todd McKenney and Amanda Harrison. Cover – Alex Rathgeber and Amanda Harrison. Photos – Jeff Busby
The Production Company opened its 2011 musical season with 1930’s favourite Anything Goes by Cole Porter. With its slew of familiar songs like Blow, Gabriel Blow and I Get a Kick Out of You and broad, farcical comedy, it is one of those old fashioned musicals that is most entertaining when taken with a grain of salt.
Sailing vessel, S.S. America, sets the location for a range of passengers – from poncy English noble and blonde bimbo sexpot to blind-as-a-bat millionaire and shy debutante – to play cat and mouse games, have secret identities and woo incompatible lovers. Comical disguises, over-played stereotypes and general knockabout slapstick ticks the boxes for a light-hearted night at the theatre.
The Production Company presents concert style offerings rather than fully-furnished musicals. Here, large scaffolding envelopes the stage and creates the decks of the cruise ship. The 17-strong all-male orchestra (Orchestra Victoria) plays from deep within the levels and the cast use downstage and gangways of the set for the physical action. Considering the lack of space, directors Andrew Hallsworth (also choreographer) and Dean Bryant succeed in movement-packed company numbers like Anything Goes and Bon Voyage and use the multi-levels of Adam Gardnir’s set to shift focus throughout the stage.
While the ensemble are all fresh-faced, highly trained dancers capable of executing the sharp steps and precision formations to a tee, it’s musical theatre veterans Wayne Scott Kermond (as Moonface Martin) and Todd McKenney (clearly relishing over-playing the stuffy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) who have the chops and experience to really work the musical genre. They elevate the production to truly professional musical calibre. As the feisty Reno Sweeney, Amanda Harrison’s strength is her solid, confident voice while Alex Rathgeber is a sweet-faced and vocally consistent Billy Crocker. Christie Whelan has a ball as Erma, Moonface’s partner-in-crime and lust object of the sailors – her New York accent is pretty darn good. Christy Sullivan, as Hope Harcourt, is a more restrained, good girl character but gets a chance to stand out with her solo moment in Goodbye Little Dream, Goodbye.
Don’t go looking for political correctness or intellectualising in Anything Goes. But for historical musical theatre and a stress-free dose of the wonderful Cole Porter, hop aboard the S.S. America. With clever, economical design and its mix of musical theatre heavy-weights and younger performers who are all consistently strong vocalists, Anything Goes comes up trumps.
The Production Company presents
Directed by Andrew Hallsworth and Dean Bryant
Venue: State Theatre | the Arts Centre, Melbourne
Dates: 20 – 24 July, 2011
Times: Wed 20 July - Fri 22 July, 7:30pm; Sat 23 July, 2pm & 7.30pm; Sun 24 July, 3pm
Tickets: $87 – $45
Bookings: www.theartscentre.com.au | 1300 182 183