Anything Goes

Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter, Original Book by PG Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, New book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman and Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
The Guildford School of Acting Graduate Company
Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford.

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Watch out world – they’re here again. The latest batch of graduate students from the Guildford School of Acting are ready and eager to astound and delight you with their young, fresh, energetic and well tutored talents – and talent there is, in abundance, from a school which always manages to produce quality.

The show could hardly go wrong with Cole Porter’s music and songs such as I get a Kick out of You, You’re the Top, Easy to Love and It’s Delovely, but the treatment given to each and every number speaks volumes for their ability, training and obvious love of their chosen profession. A cast of twenty two act, dance and sing their hearts out in this fast paced show, directed and choreographed by Gerry Tebbutt, with some constantly changing and very atmospheric lighting by Martin Waddington. Scene changes are slick, precise and hardly noticeable as the action changes from hotel to bar to ship’s deck etc. and there are some fabulous costumes (designer Colin Mayes), most particularly for the lead Reno Sweeney played by Suzie McAdam – a girl who can certainly belt out a song, and a worthy successor to Ethel Merman as she dominates the stage with cheeky, raunchy, loud-mouthed charm – and she gets her man in the end, although not the one she intended.

The story is farcical and set on a transatlantic liner with an eclectic mix of characters, from millionaire tycoon Elisha Whitney (Tom Yeates) to gangster Moonface Martin and stowaway Billy Crocker who is on the ship to be near the love of his life, American debutante Hope Harcourt, who is already engaged to be married to an English lord, and Tebbutt has played up the comedy to full effect, sometimes verging on pantomime. The first act climaxes with the title song, where the full company, headed by Reno, really let it rip in a riotously joyous song and dance

When I last saw Boris Johnson he was playing Sir Andrew Augucheek in Regent’s Park’s Twelfth Night. That man certainly gets about! Here he is again, in the shape of Nathan Stickley, this time playing Lord Evelyn Oakleigh to the manner born. He is the slightly bemused English gentleman who is finding Americanisms very strange, and he writes them all down in a little book for reference – getting all the wrong meanings, but perfectly capturing the essence of a bemused Boris. It is in Act Two, though, that he really comes into his own, singing (and dancing) the story of his heritage – The Gypsy in Me – a comical performance which had me almost crying with laughter.

Jenny-Marie Cooper is an erotically glamorous Irma, the gangsters’ moll with not so much ‘a glimpse of stocking’ but brazenly obvious black stockings and suspenders under her spectacular outfits - and a lovely comic turn too. Demure Hope is sung and danced sublimely by Charlotte McCurry, and mention must be made of the four dancing sailors (Owen Hanson, Marc Berridge, James Kennedy Benn, and James Dangerfield) who intersperse the action with their own brand of comedy and well as some entertaining dance routines.

Billy is a very likeable, chirpy James Winter, his voice blending beautifully with Reno’s in Friendship, and Nic Gibney is a surprisingly appealing and comical ‘gangster’.

The finale is the whole company again with the title song – and anything more ‘delightfully, deliciously, delectably de-lovely’ would be hard to find. Great entertainment!

Reviewer: Sheila Connor