‘Anything Goes’ was de-lovely.
Phoenix Ensemble took a trip back to the 1930s with their latest production of ‘Anything Goes’. The Tin Shed was transformed into an ocean liner as the audience set sail for the evening.
This Cole Porter classic musical tells the tale of stowaway, Billy Crocker, and his misadventures on the SS American. Brimming with well-known tunes such as ‘You’re The Top’, ‘I Get A Kick Out Of You’ and ‘De-Lovely’, this golden era musical makes for a highly entertaining night out.
Lighting design by Maddy Bosanko blended seamlessly with the set design and orchestrations to enable focused action and smooth scene changes. The use of the follow-spot in the musical numbers conjured up the feel of a golden-era Broadway musical.
Set design by Andy Kennedy was inspired. The stage took the form of a ship, with moving set pieces to create different rooms and levels. Clever use of stairs, railings and doors allowed for dynamic and varied entrances and gave the illusion that the stage was much larger than it actually is. Overall, the set was exceptional, well-designed and wonderfully constructed.
Costumes by Breanna Gear, Miranda Selwood and Bec Swain were in keeping with the 1930s style and worked cohesively and believably on board a ship.
Director Miranda Selwood created scenes with dynamics; the movement was well thought out and the comedic timing was perfect. The use of different areas of the stage and well-choreographed movement created the hustle and bustle feel that one would expect on a cruise ship. Moments of calamity were coupled with scenes of stillness to create a well-balanced and natural show.
Musical direction by Jacob Cavanough was expertly conceived. His direction kept true to the original Cole Porter score, which resulted in a classic rendition of the musical numbers. The ensemble number ‘There’s No Cure Like Travel’ was beautiful and showed off Cavanough’s musical skills. Cavanough also served as conductor of the band. It is always special to have live music in community theatre and Cavanough handled the rich melodies of this show wonderfully.
Choreography by Bec Swain was dynamic and fun. Her dances were in keeping with the style of the decade and showcased the talents of the ensemble dancers. The tap routine in ‘Anything Goes’ was outstanding, with a fresh spin on the well-known dance number and a fabulous end to Act One. Audience members could be heard remarking about the tapping during the intermission. A standout moment of the evening.
Jaime O’Donoghue handled the role of feisty Reno Sweeney with ease. Her accent was flawless, her characterisation sassy and her vocals were unstoppable. O’Donoghue has an inspiring stage presence and took command of each scene she was in. Her rendition of ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’ was powerful.
Zach Price was a charming Billy Crocker. His comedic timing and gentle nature was a nice contrast to O’Donoghue’s fiery portrayal of Sweeney. His performance of ‘Easy To Love’ was tender and moving.
Kristen Barros played the darling love interest, Hope Harcourt, with so much soul and warmth it was easy to see why Crocker falls so deeply in love with her. Barros’ natural and devoted acting style and sweet voice brought the heart of the story to life. ‘Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye’ was a deeply intimate and beautiful number.
Tristan Vanyai brought comedy to the show with his portrayal of Moonface. His comedic timing and hapless personality in this larger-than-life role had the audience laughing out loud. Vanyai perfectly balanced his comedic skills while showcasing his vocal talent in ‘Be Like The Bluebird’.
Vivien Wood embraced the role of Erma wholeheartedly. Her performance of ‘Buddie, Beware’ was exceptional. Vocally perfect, hilariously comedic and wonderfully fun, Wood excelled and received huge praise from the audience.
Jordan Ross played the ever-proper Evelyn Oakleigh with ease. His British accent was faultless and his comedic timing was also spot on. In Act Two, Ross’ vocal and dance abilities were on full display in his rendition of ‘A Gypsy In Me’. Again, he balanced the comedy of the song with his commanding vocal talents.
The ensemble all held their own as individual characters and commanded attention in their own right. Together, they were a strong team of polished performers that enhanced and supported the leads in what was a cohesive cast.
Overall, Phoenix Ensemble’s production of ‘Anything Goes’ was fantastic. Funny, heartfelt and expertly executed, Selwood and the team have more than done justice to this classic musical. This production has proven that golden-era musicals can be brought into the 21st century for a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining evening.
‘Anything Goes’ sets sail until Saturday, 25 March 2023. For tickets, visit Phoenix Ensemble’s website.