Photos – Jeff Busby
Some things never change: mercifully, the music of Cole Porter is as current now as it was in 1936, when Anything Goes first opened in Sydney – except back then it caused quite a fervor due to its ribald and raunchy delivery! Live theatre is made in heaven by those who live theatre, and Cole Porter was out there with the best of them!
The show opens with casual bar interaction, introducing the fashion of the times (bring back elegance, please) and what lies behind the social morays. It’s happy hour at the Astro Bar and I can’t help it, I want to sing along...
Everyone in the audience wants to sing along, at one point or other, as these songs are so familiar to us all, we can’t help but tap our feet and hum. Freeze-frame dancing, ‘gay old time’ overture and how wonderfully it all melds together, with seamless set changes and lighting and beautiful costume design. Orchestra (double wow) on the ‘foredeck’ with people to-ing and fro-ing and always something happening.
Every live show is the sum total of its parts and by god this show has some parts! Like the part that Caroline O’Connor portrays. What a powerhouse! Caroline O’Connor (Reno Sweeney) hits the decks with a bag-full of talent and energy that defies all logic: she sings (and boy, can she belt out a tune) dances (they even tap-dance, I LOVE tap dancing) and Caroline owns the stage with the wit and delivery of a comic genius, facial expressions that defy gravity: she is a one-woman show!
But she isn’t all on her own, oh no, she is joined by a stellar cast of performers who sing, tap, slide, jump, croon, belt-it-out, make you laugh until you cry with so many ‘wise-guy’ pearlers I couldn’t write them down fast enough. To hear the banter of Todd McKenney (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) is worth the freight alone! His comparison language, writing down the American terms vs English quips, reusing them, trying to get his point across, was so hilarious, the audience laughed so loudly, I want to go back and watch the show again to catch what I missed the first time.
Hallelujah – they’ve seen the light, with Reno spreading her religion (and other parts, too) to a gob-smacked audience, with the ensemble performers shining like beacons, all set aboard a great ocean liner, reminiscent of the halcyon days of luxury liner travel (that is, if you were not in steerage)!
Songs with words like, “I get no kick from champagne...cocaine, mere alcohol doesn’t thrill me at all”, well, what’s changed? Still raunchy and ribald, witty and clever for our times: you’ve got your gangsters, your gamblers, your stowaways and some of the best dad jokes and one-liners performed in one show. Billy (Alex Rathgeber) says to Reno, “I’m in love” and Reno retorts, “I’m in cabin thirteen...”
Excellent writing with the original book by P. G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and the new book by Timothy Crouse (yes, a relative) and John Weidman. Take a bow, gents, this is musical comedy at its best.
Alex Rathgeber (Billy Crocker) and Claire Lyon (Hope Harcourt) are wonderful star-crossed lovers, with Wayne Scott Kermond (Moonface Martin) and Debora Krizak (Erma) being the ‘devil in the detail’. The combination of sex appeal and gangster-comedy is a wicked vehicle and these performers deliver in spades. Bartholomew John (Elisha Whitney) reminds me of our modern day politicians (greedy and indulgent) and so funny, he should run in the next elections (please)! Carmen Duncan (Mrs Harcourt) and Gerry Connolly (The Captain) are perfect, too. Ensemble performers (many, varied and all gorgeous) meld the show.
“Christians don’t use opium... they use martinis”, “Our father, who aren’t in heaven, how did you know my name...” What this show doesn’t have, you don’t need! Either a trip down memory lane or creating new experiences, this is a show not to miss.
Opera Australia and John Frost present
music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Venue: Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane
Dates: 25 July – 16 August 2015
Bookings: qpac.com.au | 136 246