Upon entrance to the St.Age I was greeted by a mass of eager theatre goers all waiting for the doors to open and take their seats for what promised to be a night of song, dance and laughter. It was great to see a full house and I’m sure the audience were not disappointed by the performance that followed.
I did not know a lot of the numbers from the show bar the title number, however I was surprised how familiar the whole score sounded. There are some great songs in the show, some which are feel-good and some which tickle the funny bone. Two particular standouts for me were the “Heaven Hop” and “Let’s Misbehave”; to be honest, it is difficult to pick a winner when there are so many to choose from. Songs that you can tap your feet along to are just what is needed in the midst of deadlines and presentation stress and I loved getting sucked in by the rhythm and harmonies in the more upbeat songs.
The band, conducted by Lavie, executed the musical numbers with flair and gusto. Although at points the performance on stage was almost overpowered and at times it was a bit difficult to hear, the overall effect of having a live band added the 20’s vibe of the performance and delivered exactly what was promised when I spoke to Ms. Reid a few weeks ago. It was a lovely surprise at curtain call when the band were unveiled next door all kitted out in Hawaiian shirts and tropical dresses. Being next door, some technical issues did manifest during the performance, mainly due to the mics rather than the band itself which was a shame, but not enough to distract from the overall production and talent of the musicians.
I love a traditional musical, the stereotypical all singing-all dancing spectacle with a little bit of tap dance thrown in there. There was definitely a bit of everything when it came to dance and the choreography was extremely well done for the space that the cast had available to them. The 4 angels routines were particularly strong and even something as simple as a little hip pulse added a touch of glamour and jazz to the slower-paced numbers.
It was great to see that almost the entire cast had a go at tap-dancing and despite looking for someone to slip up, I cannot fault the effort or execution of these numbers especially in “Anything Goes” at the end of the first act. The ensemble dance numbers added a jovial undertone and there was definitely a sense of teamwork as the cast had to clamber up and down the ladders to be in the right place at the right time.
Being a fan of strictly, I do love a good partner dance and there was no shortage of that in this production. Although sometimes clumsy, the lifts and spins paid reference to the routines of the era and were much appreciated.
I have got to say, the costumes really stood out to me in this production. Reno Sweeney’s costume changes from a simple wrapover dress to a flapper style sequined blue leotard were stunning. The tweed suit perfectly complemented the awkward and extremely British nature of Lord Evelyn and the hats that adorned the rest of the aristocracy added a touch of class. All the costumes fit well with the era and delivered exactly what was promised from Ms. Denby, embodying the patriotic american colour scheme. A huge congratulations to Anna Tumblety and the costume team, I loved all of them!
The St.Age is not the biggest venue by any stretch of the imagination and yet the production team managed to represent an entire cruise vessel via the creative staging. Simplistic yet effective through the use of ladders and ropes to give the suggestion of the upper and lower deck of the boat which was just enough to allow the audience to focus solely on the action.
I was a little bit worried about what the size of the cast would do to the attention to detail for each number in the show but actually I don’t think it had any effect whatsoever. Everyone seemed involved and committed to delivering the best performance possible and you really got a sense of the closeness of the cast in the large ensemble numbers. This was especially impressive in the tap numbers and no one seemed out of place in the company.
A special word has got to be said for some of the members of the cast. For a start, Lydia Seed as Reno Sweeney was breathtaking, her voice was incredible and she did justice to the title number of the show, she will definitely go far in the industry if it is something that she wishes to pursue in the future. Pairing her talent with the comic genius of Caelen Mitchell-Bennett created some wonderful moments especially in “Let’s misbehave”. Veronique Lalley and George Lea were great as the formidable “criminal” duo, Moonface and Bonnie and I hope to see a lot more of them in the future.
Casting was very well done and each member seemed to fit seamlessly with the role that they played.
Overall, Anything Goes was a massive feat which delivered on all areas. A few technical issues here and there but this was made up through the strength of the performers and the material they had to work with. I now have the entire album of the show on my Spotify so I can relive the musical genius of Cole Porter again and again. Congratulations to the Just So Society, a job well done I must say!