This show first hit the headlines in 1932 and not much has changed – the script is outdated and stilted but the cast are enthusiastic and of course, the Cole Porter numbers are the secret of success, so with few exceptions, the audience was well pleased.
The first act was a bit chaotic on opening night (Tuesday) but with 24 excited crew and passengers on stage of the Opera House – or what was left of it once the SS American sails in – that was to be expected. Things settled after the interval and the last number prior to this was an energetic tap routine, Anything Goes, and sent us off to the bar in good spirits.
The second act zipped along more smoothly, we know the characters by this time and that makes the complex storyline easier to follow, pretty girl engaged to wealthy man of nobility, falls in love with perky young stow away with a case of mistaken identity – therein lies the basis of the plot, although lots of people fall in love with other people and in the end there are multiple marriages, but do the right couples get it together?
We never move from the decks of the luxury cruise liner, with actors swiftly transforming the scene from inside the ship to outer decks, and it works well.
The big production numbers also work albeit a bit crowded when you get burley sailors dancing with so many passengers including Reno Sweeney (Debbie Kurup) who has a great rapport with the audience, Moonface Martin (Shaun Williamson) from the criminal underworld, Elisha Whitney (Simon Rouse) the bar fly with a heart and Evangeline Harcourt (Kate Anthon) who falls for his charms. We meet the young lovers Billy Crocker (Matt Rawie) and Hope Harcourt (Zoe Rainey) and the jilted fiance Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Stephen Matthews) who isn’t as decent as he pretends, what went on with Plum Blossom in the rice field?
Hard working cast, great band and songs to set your feet tapping. For me the highlights were Bangor born Zoe Rainey, playing the vulnerable young girl, as she sang ‘Goodbye Little Dream Goodbye’, Stephen Matthews is hilarious with ‘The Gypsy in Me’ and ‘You’re The Top’ with Debbie Kurup and Matt Rawle.
You can sail on the SS American from New York to England until the end of this week and Anything Goes will send you out into Great Victoria Street singing all the way home.
By Anne Hailes
Grand Opera House
until Saturday 30th May 2015
Details at www.goh.co.uk