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The National Youth Music Theatre – Anything Goes

The National Youth Music Theatre - Anything Goes
The National Youth Music Theatre – Anything Goes

The indispensable National Youth Music Theatre (established in 1976) provides a pathway from Bradford to Broadway for our most talented young people. It works. Jude Law and Sheridan Smith to name but two are both NYMT people. After open nationwide auditions, the most promising are brought together to put on live shows hosted by Andrew Lloyd Webber at The Other Palace near Victoria Station. Last night I saw Cole Porter’s classic musical comedy Anything Goes (1934). I can say without hesitation that the standard achieved by the NYMT is staggeringly good. The acting is not just good it is highly sophisticated and nuanced. The singing is wonderful and the dance routines are nothing short of sensational. This production could comfortably transfer tomorrow to the Savoy Theatre on the Strand. It’s that good.

With music and lyrics by the great Cole Porter (1891-1964) and book by the comic genius P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), Anything Goes is as good as the musical gets. NYMT do it more than justice. Diego Pitarch’s art nouveau set transports us to the age of the great ‘Ocean Going’ liners from New York to Southampton in the 1930s. With the musician’s placed centre stage below decks as it were. The upper deck of the ship provides a high platform for singing out to the back of the auditorium but also a balcony for the love scenes thus cleverly referencing the most famous balcony scene of all time. Onboard SS America we have a microcosm of Anglo American society from top to bottom. At the top we have Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Daniel Gray) at the bottom we have the likes of Moonface Martin (Miguel Revilla) a gangster on the run disguised as a nun.

Anything Goes is what today we would call a Romcom. It’s a Romeo and Juliet love affair with a happy ending. Billy Crocker (Toby Turpin ) loves Hope Harcourt (Lulu-Mae Pears) but she has been pressed ganged into marrying Lord Oakleigh by her social-climbing and snobbish mother Mrs Evangeline Harcourt (Spike Maxwell). The agent of change is the show’s central character Reno Sweeney (Olivia Hallett). Having set her cap at Billy she bounces back from his declaration of love for Hope by helping to bring them together. As a happy unforeseen consequence Lord Oakleigh falls in love with her. So we get two happy couples. So much for the plot, the fun is in the journey getting there. For along the way we get to experience some of the greatest song and dance routines in the repertoire of musical theatre. I Get a Kick Out of You, You’re the Top, Easy to Love, It’s De-Lovely, Anything Goes, Blow, Gabriel, Blow and The Gypsy in Me. The tap and other styles of dancing and choreography in these numbers are of the highest quality. The attention to detail is impressive. Take for example You’re the Top. Each item referenced to suggest top quality – The Louvre Museum, A Waldorf Salad, Broccoli – is literally brought on stage by the cast as a physical object in some form.

All of the performers are terrific but a few stand out. The 12-year-old Milo Hallett in the role of the plutocrat Elisha J Whitney is astonishingly good. In his thick jam jar bottom black-rimmed spectacles, pinstripe suit and soft suede shoes he somehow just naturally captures everything about his character. The New York accent is superb and never falters, the comic-timing is spot on – watch out for his French accent in the bedroom scene – and his proposal to Evangeline in the finale is a coup de theatre. Lulu-Mae Pears and Toby Turpin are wonderful as the star-crossed lovers. The title Anything Goes in part is a reference to the fact that in America love can transcend the social barriers. As a couple they are outstanding in two numbers: East to Love and It’s De-Lovely. In both, the singing and dancing is effortlessly graceful, enchanting and delightful. Two comic performers stood out for me. Miguel Rivilla and Spike Maxwell. Miguel’s gangster disguised in a nun’s outfit with a machine gun in violin case was hilarious. As Billy says to him “I don’t know what Church you belong to but you’re one hell of a Christian”. And what can I say about Spike Maxwell’s performance as Mrs Evangeline Harcourt? Superb would be an understatement. The archness in the tone of voice, the self-serving self-pity, the wailing over the missing dog, in everything he did Spike brought to life Mrs Evangeline Harcourt. This is a performance of astonishing comic depth. Spike, you’re the Top.

Daniel Gray is very good as the English upper-class buffoon Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (was P.G. Wodehouse having a sly dig at fellow novelist Evelyn Waugh?) as he writes down American slang in his notebook, with Union Jack Cover. When ordering room service he confuses Step on it with Step in it. But then astonishingly in The Gypsy in Me, he transforms himself into a wonderful free spirit dancing around the stage like a Bohemian Hippy. It’s so unexpected that it has everyone captivated. Remarkably moving, effective and funny. Reno Sweeney is a life force. She is a triple threat. She can act, sing and dance no problem. Full of confidence and charisma she can hold the stage and lead the entire cast with seemingly effortless ease. As she does superbly at the end of Act 1 when she leads the whole company in a thrillingly uplifting rendition of Anything Goes. Get on your toes and go to see Anything Goes before it closes.

4 stars

Review by John O’Brien

The third of NYMT’s productions at The Other Palace is the classic Cole Porter musical, Anything Goes. Music, dance, laughs, and the age-old tale of Boy Meets Girl – Anything Goes is a hilarious shipboard romp, wrapped around one of Cole Porter’s most magical scores.

CAST:
THE S.S AMERICAN’S CREW
SHIPS CAPTAIN BEN CULLETON (18) Leicester
SHIPS PURSER JAMIE O’LEARY (19) Sidcup
SAILOR HUCK LUKE BASSETT (17) Lancing
SAILOR BUCK JOSEPH BOYLE (17) Chorley
SAILOR FRED HENRY CRABB-LAHEI (17) Stroud
SAILOR HANK PAUL FRENCH (18) Chelmsford
SAILOR CHIP JACOB EDWARDS (17) Leighton Buzzard

THE ENTERTAINMENT
RENO SWEENEY OLIVIA HALLETT (18) Welling
ANGEL PURITY HANNAH MILLER (21) Greenwich
ANGEL CHASTITY SOPHIE POURRET WYTHE (18) Bexleyheath
ANGEL CHARITY ANNA MORGAN (22) Guildford
ANGEL VIRTUE LILY MULLEN (20) Fulham

THE SHIP’S PASSENGERS
HOPE HARCOURT LULU-MAE PEARS (18) Leicester
ELISHA J. WHITNEY MILO HALLETT (12) London
LORD EVELYN OAKLEIGH DANIEL GRAY (21) Sutton on the Forrest
MRS. EVANGELINE HARCOURT SPIKE MAXWELL (15) Taunton
LUKE ISABELL LI-YAN-HUI (13) Cambridge
JOHN GRACE CHAN (17) London
JOLENE CHLOE TWIG (21) Camberley
HARRIET ANNA MITCHELL (19) Glasgow
LORRAINE #1 ISSY KHOGALI (18) Worcester
LORRAINE #2 OLIVIA MILLINGTON (16) Mold
NANCY ALEX MCGETRICK (17) Amersham
MARY JANE HARRIET SANDERSON (20) Sidcup
TIFFANY ELLA MORELLE (17) Newark
GERTRUDE LAUREN DAWES (18) London
MARY GEORGIE GAUDENCIO (16) Hertford
THE SHIP’S STOWAWAYS
BILLY CROCKER TOBY TURPIN (18) Hitchin
MOONFACE MARTIN MIGUEL RIVILLA (19) Cambridge
ERMA SARAH DARE (21) Bransgore

OTHER AMERICANS WE ENCOUNTER
FRED (A BARMAN) HENRY CRABB-LAHEI (17) Stroud
SHIP’S CHEF PAUL FRENCH (18) Chelmsford
REPORTER #1 ALEX MCGETRICK (17) Amersham
REPORTER #2 ELLA MORELLE (17) Newark
PHOTOGRAPHER LAUREN DAWES (18) London
MOTHER SUPERIOR HARRIET SANDERSON (20) Sidcup
FBI AGENT #1 CHLOE TWIGG (21) Camberley
FBI AGENT #2 ANNA MITCHELL (19) GLASGOW

ANYTHING GOES
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse,
Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse
New Book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman
Performances at The Other Palace, London. 21-24 August 2019
https://nymt.org.uk/

Author

  • John OBrien

    JOHN O’BRIEN born in London in 1960 is a born and bred Londoner. His mother was an illiterate Irish traveller. His early years were spent in Ladbroke Grove. He was born at number 40 Lancaster Road. In 1967 the family was rehoused in Hackney. He attended Brooke House School for Boys in Clapton, - as did Lord Sugar. He became head boy and was the first person in his family to make it to university, gaining a place at Goldsmiths College in 1978. He took a degree in Sociology and a PGCE . From 1982 until 1993 he taught at schools in Hackney and Richmond. In 1984-85 he attended Bristol University where he gained a Diploma in Social Administration. From 1985 until 1989 he studied part-time in the evenings for a degree in English Literature at Birkbeck College. He stayed on at Birkbeck from 1990-1992 to study for an MA in Modern English Literature. He left teaching in 1993 and has worked as a tutor, researcher, writer and tour guide. He leads bespoke guided tours on London’s history, art , architecture and culture. He has attended numerous courses at Oxford University - Exeter College, Rewley House & Kellogg College. In London, he attends courses at Gresham College, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, The British Academy and The Royal Society. Read the latest London theatre reviews by all reviewers.

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