Musical Review – Anything Goes

February 10, 2010 | By More

★★★☆☆    Fun

Church Hill Theatre: Tue 9 – Sat 13 Feb 2010
By Thom Dibdin

Gutsy and full-blooded when it comes to the singing, and in possession of a pair stunning leading performers, the Edinburgh University Footlights’ production of Anything Goes rocks the stage of the Church Hill when it gets into its stride.

This is certainly a production which knows how to have fun. Find of the evening is Rachel Timney as Reno Sweeney, the 1930s New York night-club chanteuse who takes a singing job on a liner which sets out for Europe with a quartet of mismatched lovers on board. Of whom Reno, of course, is one.

Rachel Timney and Joe Pike. Pic: EU Footlights

Timney’s rendition of the opening song, I Get a Kick Out of You, is velvet-voiced perfection. She can open her throat and let it sing – yet still cajole her voice to lilt over the grace-notes. And she has real presence as she slinks about the stage making full use of Cole Porters clever – and cleverly rhyming – lyrics.

Billy Flitcroft works hard at keeping Billy Crocker, the Wall Street runner who Reno is sweet on, up to her standard. He achieves it too, at times. You’re The Top has the making of a first class duet and musically is only let down by difficulties on the mixing desk in finding an equitable balance between singers and orchestra. Which was a too-often recurring problem on opening night.

Billy’s flame, debutante Hope Harcourt, is a less emphatic character and while Sarah Haddath doesn’t have the biggest singing voice around, she gives a great showing of winsome love. Indeed her realisation that she really does love Billy and not her fiance, English toff Evelyn Oakleigh, is the most smoothly accomplished and believable piece of character development in the piece.

Which leaves Joe Pike as Evelyn – whose real love will come as no surprise to those who recognise a well-rounded plot coming over the hill. He’s a shade too hesitant in the opening scenes but is quickly into his stride and does more than most to bring out the humour of the piece.

high point

Sadly, it is not until well into Act II that he gets to sing. But the duet of Gypsy In Me with Reno is the show’s real high point. More so, even, than the big-hoofing title song which is the Act I finale and sees the 30 or so ensemble tapping out in strong unison.

The Anything Goes Company. Pic: EU Footlights

Where the production does not achieve its full potential is in the acting. Director Helen Raw has not succeeded in giving as much confidence to the performance of the comedy and patter which runs between the big numbers as has been given to the numbers themselves.

It is a failing that makes several of the performers horribly exposed. Mark Laverty, a strong tap dancer, tries hard as Moonface Martin, a gangster who longs for the celebrity of being Public Enemy Number One. There’s the makings of great comedy in there, but too much faffing around to allow it to be seen.

Neville Billimoria as Elisha Whitney, Billy’s boss on Wall Street, is similarly hampered. There needs to be more direction to a character who, although in the periphery of the main action, still has plenty to add. Mary Clare, conversely, maintains wonderful composure throughout as Hope’s gold-digging mother, Evangeline.

A largely strong and competent production which could do with tightening up on its technical side but which delivers, in buckets, when called upon to make a big song and dance.

Run continues to Saturday 13 February

Edinburgh University Footlights’ Website

ENDS

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Comments (2)

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  1. Susan Wales says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed it – it was great fun. The singers, especially Rachel Timney were very strong. I most enjoyed the dance numbers.
    The set changes were slick and the action kept moving. Whether they were meant or not I couldn’t tell, but things like out-of-time ‘knocks’ and wobbly jail cell just added to the fun.
    You commented on the acting Thom – well I agree in part, they were stronger singers than actors, but it wasn’t a drama requiring realistic character interpretations, it was an OTT version of life and as such they were totally fine in my opinion.
    My only negative comment is that I couldn’t always make out the dialogue but that could just as easily have been down to my hearing because the rest of the audience laughed at the lines so they obviously heard them ok.

  2. Helen Raw says:

    I personally think that Thom has missed the point of the show! The 2 actors he suggests were ‘horribly exposed’ were actually audience favourites! The characterisations were spot on for this OTT and eccentric show and they were held very well throughout the show and through all the musical numbers; granted most of the cast are stronger singers than actors.

    As Director, you have to take all comments, good and bad, on the chin and I personally am very proud of my cast and crew, all of whom have put their hearts and souls into this project.

    To get 3 stars from ‘2 star Thom’ is a major feat in itself so we did an awful lot right!

    Thanks for coming along Thom.