Anything Goes

Feb 16 2023 | By More

★★★★☆     Impressive

Edinburgh Tabernacle: Wed 15 – Sat 18 Feb 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Forth Children’s Theatre’s production of the evergreen musical Anything Goes at the Edinburgh Tabernacle is performed impressively and with an infectious glee.

There are several wonderful songs in Cole Porter’s original 1934 score, with the number being swelled in recent years by judicious additions from other Porter musicals.

Ailsa MacLean as Reno Sweeney with her Angels and the Anything Goes company. Pic: FCT

The book (by several writers including P.G. Wodehouse) has also been revised more than once. It remains a frothy, screwball-comedy story about stockbroker Billy Crocker who stows away on an ocean liner, in pursuit of debutante Hope who is scheduled to marry an English aristocrat.

The storyline of assumed identities, farcical near-misses and romantic misadventure is as daft and frothy as the music is witty and sophisticated, but the mixture continues to work.

pacy production

Director Debs Anderson has fashioned a pacy production that makes the range of age and theatrical experience of the cast into an asset rather than a drawback, with the end result being constantly fun and diverting.

On opening night there was the odd delay in changing scenes, but nothing to hamper the enjoyment, and this will surely settle down during the week.

A potentially more serious issue is the way that a couple of the songs sit awkwardly for the ranges of some of the developing voices – something not helped by some decidedly recalcitrant microphones – but once again this did not not detract greatly from the production.

Ailsa MacLean as Reno Sweeney with her Angels in Anything Goes. Pic: FCT

There are certainly no issues with the vocals of the outstanding Ailsa MacLean as nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. From her performance of I Get A Kick Out Of You in the opening scene, it is clear that not only does she have a melodic and commanding voice, she also possesses the knowledge and ability to sing through the lines with a clear understanding of their meaning – something that many experienced performers lack.

This attention to detail is noticeable throughout, and speaks highly for the work of vocal coach Erin Munro.

simply stunning

Maclean has an enviable stage presence, and also shines in her dance numbers with her impressive five backing Angels (Emma Swain, Hariot Currie-Mullan, Jenna Masson, Lucy McDowall and Eve Houldcroft).

Taylor Doig’s choreography is notably strong throughout; an extended sequence featuring Bobby Duncan as Billy and Chloe Law as Hope is simply stunning, with sweeping, graceful lines combined with spectacular lifts.

This routine is enhanced by some moody lighting, which does, however, threaten to become too dark – something that only exacerbates the sightline issues caused by a long, narrow auditorium with no rake to the seating.

Chloe Law as Hope and Bobby Duncan as Billy in Anything Goes. Pic FCT

Duncan gives Billy a winning comic edge, and seems entirely at home on the stage. His duet with MacLean on You’re The Top is beautifully staged and excellently performed. Law, meanwhile, gives Hope (a character whose apparent lack of agency can be bewildering) a believably conflicted air.

The rest of the cast have a relish for the comedy required. Even the smaller cameo roles are given life by the energy of performers including Clodagh Macleay, Calum Caulfield, Donnacha Linington, Nina Barnett and Sam Hunter. Caulfield’s ship’s captain and Linington’s cleric are particularly well pitched.

seedy charm

Lewis Walker and Mhairi Smith give their underworld ne’er-do-well characters Moon and Erma just the right blend of seedy charm and comic breadth. Walker’s performance of Friendship with MacLean is another object lesson in how to stage a musical theatre duet; Smith’s featured number Buddie, Beware – backed by the five Angels in their other guise as sailors – is another winner.

Corin Wake as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh with Ailsa MacLean and Lewis Walker in Anything Goes. Pic FCT

Corin Wake’s Lord Evelyn Oakleigh is a splendid comic characterisation, combining a ludicrously posh persona with excellent timing.

The ensemble always add real sparkle when they join in, and good use is made of the split-level set.

A 16-piece band, under MD Peter Leslie, provide energy and flair (although it is a pity that, due to the usual Tabernacle space restrictions, they are completely invisible). At times the music could be a touch more jazzily sprightly, but overall it is very pleasing.

There are relatively few moments when the young cast are anything other than sure of themselves; there are no moments when they, or anyone else involved, are less than completely committed. The end result is a joyful one.

Running time: Two hours and 30 minutes (including one interval)
Edinburgh Tabernacle, 41-42 Ferry Rd, EH3 5PR
Wednesday 15 – Saturday 18 February 2023
Evenings at 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat at 2.30 pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

FCT website:
Facebook: @forthchildrenstheatre
Twitter: @FCTCompany
Instagram: @forthchildrenstheatre

A scene from Anything Goes. Pic: FCT


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  1. Dorothy Bruce says:

    Excellent in every way. Enthusiasm, superb singing and dancing, characterisation perfect. So talented, these children promise so much potential Edinburgh will be well served in their future productions.