Friday, September 11, 2015

ANYTHING GOES - Sydney Opera House

Caroline O'Connor and her sailors 

Music and Lyrics: Cole Porter. New Book: Timothy Crouse and John Weidman
Director: Dean Bryant. Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth. Set adaption and Costume Design: Dale Ferguson. Musical Director: Peter Casey
Presented by: Opera Australia and John Frost.
Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House until 31st October 2015

Caroline O'Connor as Reno Sweeney 
Reviewed by Bill Stephens

Australia saw its first production of “Anything Goes” nearly 80 years ago, and despite there being many revivals since, it seems incredible that this show still has the power to delight and entertain contemporary audiences.
However, despite its hopelessly silly storyline following the antics of  a disparate group of unlikely characters aboard a trans-Atlantic liner, and its hoary old “boom-boom” jokes, the show still provides a surprisingly agreeable peg for a collection of  Cole Porter’s best songs, which in this production are superbly sung and staged.

But there is much more to savour in this production than Porter’s songs.  Fresh from their successes with “Sweet Charity” and “La Cage Aux Folles”, the talented team of director, Dean Bryant, and choreographer, Andrew Hallsworth, have again applied their skills to assembling a first rate cast with the talents to bring these cardboard cut-out characters to life, and supporting them with brilliant choreography and staging to produce a stylish, effervescent, production which not only respects the source material, but scintillates from the cleverly staged “freeze frame” overture until the final well-earned standing ovation.

"Anything Goes" - First Act Finale. 

Caroline O’Connor in the central role as Reno Sweeney, night club singer extraordinaire, dazzles with a powerhouse performance that is pure solid gold Broadway leading lady. With a power-house voice which would likely make even Ethel Merman blanch. Her flawless phrasing and articulation, insures that every lyric is crystal clear.  An accomplished comedienne, O’Connor is also a formidable dancer, a talent she displays to excellent effect in the brilliantly staged, marathon first act tap-dance finale where it’s impossible to tear your eyes away from her even when the stage is awash with other spirited dancers.  

Todd McKenney and Caroline O'Connor 
Todd McKenney is almost unrecognisable as the foppish Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and clearly relishes this role. 

Although he doesn’t get to tap dance, McKenney does get to show off his dancing chops in a terrific tango, “The Gypsy In Me”.  

As Moonface Martin, the gangster on the run, Wayne Scott Kermond calls on his unrivalled mastery of classic vaudeville shtick to create a terrific comic performance. His duet with O’Connor (“Friendship”) and his solo turn (Be like the Bluebird) provide two of many highlights during the evening. His teaming with the rubber-faced and leggy Deborah Krizak as his moll, Erma, is a masterstroke. Their scene in his cabin is hilarious. Later Krizak gets her own moment to shine in “Buddy Beware”.

Deborah Krizak, Wayne Scott Kerman, Gerry Connelly

Claire Lyon and Alex Rathgeber are perfectly cast as the romantic leads. Both are personable, superb singers and excellent dancers, which they get to display in the beautifully staged “All Through the Night”.  Elsewhere, Rathgeber even proves a dab hand at comedy.

A particular pleasure of this production is watching how experienced troupers like Gerry Connelly, Carmen Duncan, and Bartholomew John add lustre to the show by making the most of the limited opportunities offered by their roles, convincingly demonstrating the old adage, “There is no such thing as small parts only small actors”. 

Dale Ferguson’s costumes are elegant, and although some of the superstructure of his liner is puzzling, his “set adaption” (?) provides an appropriate and attractive environment for the action. Peter Casey’s fine band, perched above the stage in full view of the audience, adds special pleasure of its own by creating exactly the right ambience for Cole Porter’s lovely score to weave its special magic in a production which offers much to delight. 

Caroline O'Connor, Alex Rathgeber, Claire Lyon, Todd McKenney, Deborah Krizak