Porter's liner still a classy crossing
Old Rep, Birmiingham
WITH a hip-swivelling
Reno. Blow, Gabriel, Blow
being given a spirited airing and a company
that is right on top of choreographer Melanie Flint's tap-dancing
challenge for the title number, Alan Hackett's production has no option
but to be a winner.
For good measure, when somebody dropped a large
hat onto the deck of SS American early on, it was picked up in
commendably quick time by a member of the ship's crew. There was never a
possibility that people were going to start walking round it and
pretending that it wasn't there. This was a bonus. This was
professionalism. This was a lesson assimilated early.
The hip-swiveller is Lauren Neale, a likeable
bundle of energy who achieves a believable Americanisation of the many
songs that come her way and is reliably backed by her team of Angels.
She and Isobel Robinson (Hope) are appealing
opposites. Where Reno is brash and sexy, Hope has a happy innocence
which is suitably shocked by Billy Crocker's masquerade as Snake Eyes, a
gentleman who is no better than he need be.
James Mateo-Salt's youthful features don't help
gangster Moonface Martin to shed his cherubic good cheer, but it's a
pleasure to believe that he's a nasty piece of work somewhere underneath
the surface – even though, in the long history of Anything Goes,
Moonface has never been required to live up to his surprising high
ranking among America's public enemies. We all know that gun in the
violin case is just for show.
Billy, played by James Reidy with an earnest air
and a strong voice, comes across confidently and has a high old time
when he briefly disappears behind an expansive set of ginger whiskers.
Joe Sefton has a commendable shot at Sir Evelyn,
English fathead incarnate. This is a difficult act to maintain for a
youthful thespian but he tackles it with spirit and he and Lauren Neale
shine in their Gypsy in Me duet.
The central group are well supported by Ellie
Price (Mrs Harcourt), Nathan Queeley-Dennis (Elisha Whitney) and Karina
Holness (Bonnie), plus the happy passengers, the crew and the two
The show is attractively staged, and the nightclub scene that opens act 2 is particularly well costumed. To 21-05-11.
Meanwhile from the poop deck . . .
Director Alan Hackett celebrates 50 years in amateur showbiz 'on the bridge' of this classic Cole Porter musical which is well performed by the young cast whose ages range from 10 to 18.
He can feel well pleased with the latest result as the youngsters enthusiastically tackle the story of madcap antics aboard a cruise ship bound from New York to London with a passenger list which includes gangster Moonface Martin, Public Enemy No 13.
Hackett's voluntary stage career has encompassed acting, directing and committee work, and he actually formed the youtheatre in 1987.
Since then a number of local wannabes have made it to the professional theatre.
The latest crop of talented youngsters clearly enjoy performing in this show, and there is a marvellous scene just before the interval when a number of the cast tap-dance impressively while singing Anything Goes.
Top billing goes to Lauren Neale, playing night club singer Reno Sweeny. Her acting and singing are refreshing, and there are fine performances, too, from James Reidy (Billy Crocker), James Mateo-Salt (Moonface Martin), Isobel Robinson (Hope Harcourt), Joe Sefton (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh), while Karina Holness reveals a sparkling stage presence as gangster's mol Bonnie.
The show includes other hits songs like You're the Top, I Get a Kick out of You, and Blow, Gabriel, Blow.
Melanie Flint is choreographer and Chris Corcoran musical director of a happy show which runs to 21.05.11