“A nautical powerhouse of talent showcased by both cast and crew…
This year’s Gala show by DULOG is an excellent take on a golden age classic. Anything Goes is a nautical powerhouse of talent showcased by both cast and crew.
Directed by Emily Phillips, assisted by Emilia Lewis, and with Musical Director Freya Hartley with a team of Daniel Hicks and Carolyn Leung, the production is both raunchily hilarious and comforting in its traditionality, striking a balance that is sure to delight visitors to the Gala Theatre during the show’s run. Though the entirety of the show takes place on a boat, everything about the production is large, loud, and jubilantly showy, and the direction ensures that the pace is maintained throughout.
Xanthe Gibson is Reno Sweeney, the nightclub singer/ evangelist who sings many of the show’s catchiest tunes, including its titular song. Managing to combine confident vocals with the more human qualities of the character, Gibson’s portrayal has a heart of gold that shines through the bravado, making it easy to be both impressed and touched by her Reno.
Matthew Bourne as Billy Crocker, the fresh-faced serial liar reformed by falling in love, is stellar in this role, full of boundless energy which is essential considering the centrality of the character. He has effortless chemistry with love interest Hope (Charlotte Dixon), whose innocent but assured presence is a joy to watch. Comedy is a big part of Anything Goes, and the entire cast is adept at making the humour land. Evelyn (Joachim Price) is a particularly humorous role, and Price completely embodies it, including accent and mannerisms that bring the comedy to the forefront. Both Damola Amusa and Eleanor Sumner, as Moonface and Erma respectively, give incredibly funny performances and are standouts amongst the supporting cast.
The entire band deserves serious praise for keeping the energy up throughout the entire show, in both the dreamy romantic moments like “All Through the Night”, and the big, brash numbers like “Blow Gabriel Blow”. The prowess of the orchestra cannot be overstated, as every song is delivered with a panache that really complements the vocal talent on display. I will say it is sometimes difficult to hear the words of the songs over the band. It could be a problem with mics and out of the control of the team, but it is a shame to occasionally miss the full force of the great vocals because it’s a struggle to hear what it is they are singing about.
Choreographer Rhyen Hunt has made group routines dynamic, whilst still ensuring they felt traditional and cohesive in the world of the show. The dancing could have been tidier at times, with a few moments of messiness occurring in part due to the combination of a large cast and substantial scenery, but overall the routines are highly impressive. The ensemble is impressively strong, especially during the dance numbers but also in group scenes as a whole. They bring the world of the SS American to life and are engaging throughout.
Everything stage manager Sami Berkoff and the whole creative team under production manager Charlotte Beech have done to ensure this show runs smoothly has paid off in spades. A particularly spectacular part of the production is the moving set, designed by James Fox-Robinson and built by Steph Roarty. To an audience member, the handling of these elements appears practically seamless, and any minor malfunctions on the night were dealt with professionally and with good humour by the cast and crew. The use of lighting (James Stevenson, Tom Rickman, George Murray) to evoke different locations, and also contribute to some of the show’s comedic moments, is expert.
Anything Goes is a must-see production. Between the deft performances, immensely competent direction, phenomenal band, and obvious hard work and enthusiasm of every single person behind the scenes, the show has something for everyone. It’s well and truly ship-shape.
By Elizabeth Sykes
Photo Credits: DULOG