Cupar Amateur Musical Society’s production of ‘Anything Goes’ was a delightfully escapist antidote to counteract lowering temperatures and the, ever present, Brexit Fatigue.
This 1987 revised version of the original production of 1934, with music and lyrics by the inimitable Cole Porter, original book by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, engaged the audience as soon as the house lights dimmed and the Overture began.
With a hint of the notable numbers to come, such as ‘I Get a Kick Out Of You’, ‘You’re The Top’ and, ‘Anything Goes’, Cole Porter’s toe-tapping syncopation and swing brought memories to the fore.
For others below a certain age this would be an introduction to clever lyrics and some of the funniest songs ever written.
A marvel of wit and timing, ‘Anything Goes’ tells the story of Billy Crocker. Hopelessly in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Aristo, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh to the delight of her mother, Evangeline Harcourt. Billy learns that the engaged couple are setting sail on the luxury liner, SS American, from New York to Southampton. Determined to win Hope back, Billy stows away on board.
With a passenger list consisting of eccentric millionaire Elisha Whitney, gangster Moonface Martin, man-eating moll Erma and Torch singing nightclub owner Reno Sweeney, who is herself ‘carrying a torch’ for Billy, the voyage will not be plain sailing.
Not to mention a conciliatory captain, a pretentious purser, stunning showgirls, a medley of Matelots and the cream of New York Society, including one with a Cheeky pedigree.
This nonsensical romp, was an ensemble piece, par excellence. CAMS are fortunate in being able to allot minor roles to actors of calibre. A luxury not always shared by amateur companies.
The complete cast were impressive. Not only were their vocal numbers a treat, but in the huge set pieces, they attacked Lorna Lewis’s choreography with gusto. The tap dancing final number to close Act One – ‘Anything Goes’ was a terpsichorean treat. The slick, pitch perfect vocals, with the crisp diction demanded by Cole Porter’s lyrics, a testament to Kate Doig’s search for perfection.
Full marks to the sound team who enabled us to hear every witty word above and along with the brashy tones of the orchestra.
The interaction between principals and other cast members was noticeable. Well done director Scott Melvin for fostering this .
Louise Middleton’s Reno was a believable, tough New York broad. She commanded the stage with each appearance. Her husky voice and sultry self confidence were well worthy of the applause she received. Her comedy timing was razor sharp and her dance moves polished. This was a belter of a performance.
Andrew Doig possesses all the attributes of a leading man. Easy on the eye, a strong voice with a wide range, bags of style and an ability to move and dance naturally. He also had an air of boyish innocence, essential to the plot. His Billy Crocker also had comedic timing, used to great effect when playing opposite Moonface Martin.
The girl of Billy’s dreams, Hope Harcourt, portrayed by Helen Knowles -Venters, brought a sincerity to what could have been a pale character. The role of ingénue is often lacking in spirit but Helen ensured that Hope was a credible character. Her effortless style and range in the reprise of ‘Easy to Love’ and her dance sequences in “It’s de Lovely’ imbued this decorous débutante with spirit. Billy and Hope deserved to live happily ever after.
Comedy, especially of the non PC variety, is at the heart of this show. The various entrances and exits allowed for farce at its best. This would not have been possible without the static set, designed by John Urquhart. This allowed director Scott Melvin the luxury of many levels. The SS American sat proudly on the stage whilst the stage crew unfolded it like a Rubix Cube. Their dexterity was a wonder to behold as they created cabins before our very eyes. I’ve no doubt that they’d manage IKEA’s flat packs in their sleep.
Moonface Martin, a cross between Brando and Cagney, was hilariously funny. Alan Blair’s gravely voice was perfect to epitomise the gangsters of the black and white films. Like Cagney, Alan certainly had all the moves. His rendition of ‘Friendship’ and ‘Be Like The Bluebird’, allowed us the pleasure of hearing a voice, wide ranging in tone and pace. A gangster with a heart of gold, as well as a violin.
Lord Evelyn Oakleigh’s ‘ Gypsy in Me’, played by Neil Jarrett, with Reno was a show stopper, with The Paso Doble executed in true ‘Strictly’ style. This upper class twit was played with full idiocy. At all times Neil, with a ram rod straight posture , maintained his character’s foppishness.
Adding to this fun-filled, seaside postcard view, Jackie Beatson’s bouncy, giggly, nasal gangster’s moll made the most of every entrance and exit. Her one number ‘Buddy Beware’ was both an audience and sailor pleaser.
The pretentious ship’s purser, played by Logan Booth, and the Capable Captain, Gordon Wood, ensured we all had a riotously amusing trip. Ruth Anderson’s haughty Evangeline Harcourt found solace eventually with Elisha .
And what of the fluffy ball of contentment that was ‘Cheeky’, aka Dougal? Now there’s a dog with stage presence.
Reno’s Angels deserve a mention, as do the dancing sailors. Kirsty Mckay and Ryan Bryant’s romantic and dreamy dance number added to the ethereal quality of ‘All Through The Night’.
It’s impossible to mention every performer by name, but I thoroughly enjoyed every performance. I thrilled to the big numbers, a whole stage filled with tap dancers. Everyone obviously enjoyed themselves.
Everyone concerned with this deserves the highest plaudits. The production team ensured that every inch of stage space was used. As director, Scott Melvin used every nuance of script, every tone of speech and every comedic tweak to give his principals the utmost chance to develop rounded characters.
This worked to perfection; Cole Porter would have been proud.
Kate Doig’s orchestra were bold, brashy and interpreted the score during periods of light and shade with a deftness of touch. The choral work and principals’ numbers were a reflection of her professionalism and many hours of rehearsal.
Choreography is at the heart of this show and Lorna Lewis added the beat to this heart. Every step, every tap, ever gesture well thought out and loved by the audience.
The costumes , hairdressing, make-up, lighting and front of house all deserve a mention.
Finally, the audience, as they left the theatre were whistling or singing some of the songs from the show. CAMS ... that is a mark of success!