Caroline O’Connor is ENORMOUS. Not in stature – she’s tiny – but in talent and presence. As Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, she is simply magnificent. Even if the rest of the cast were just average, or if the band were subpar, or if the staging and costumes were ordinary, the show would be worth seeing for O’Connor. Happily, the entire cast is superb, the orchestra is truly excellent, and the staging and costumes are delightful.
Anything Goes, which debuted on Broadway in 1934, is one of those shows that has you leaving the theatre with a huge smile on your face and the wonderful Cole Porter tunes (including ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, ‘You’re the Top’, ‘Easy to Love’, ‘It’s De-Lovely’ and the title song) playing in your head. This new Australian production directed by Dean Bryant and choreographed by Andrew Hallsworth fizzes with energy. It is very funny, and quite thrilling in parts – such as the show-stopping opening of Act Two, where O’Connor whips the company into a frenzy with her ‘sermon’ featuring the mighty ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’.
The leading men in this production must count themselves very lucky, as not one but three of them get to perform a big number with O’Connor: Alex Rathgeber as Billy Crocker in ‘You’re the Top’, Wayne Scott Kermond as Moonface Martin in ‘Friendship’, and Todd McKenney as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in the hilarious ‘The Gypsy in Me’. The latter is a riot – I had been waiting for McKenney to cut loose all show, and when he finally did, late in Act Two, it was well worth the wait.
The production is also extremely sexy, as if it is paying tribute to the pre-Hays Code movie musicals of the early 1930s. As the romantic leads, Rathgeber and Claire Lyon (as Hope Harcourt) are lovely but not sappy, and there is a definite erotic frisson in their interaction. A nice aspect of this production is in fact the lack of sappiness – whenever a scene threatens to become too earnest, a sly touch of humour is inserted that perfectly offsets the seriousness. (Incidentally, if the producers of the forthcoming Australian production of The Book of Mormon don’t immediately cast Rathgeber as Elder Kevin Price, they are making a big mistake.)
As mentioned, the entire cast is superb. In the ensemble, baby-faced Josh Gates is one to watch – in the small role of the Purser, he really catches your eye. Costumes, staging, choreography and lighting are all tops, and the orchestra are, as mentioned, excellent. Don’t miss this show.