Review: Concept Players’ Anything Goes, Dolman Theatre, Newport

Andy Howells visits Newport’s Dolman Theatre to review Concept Players’ presentation of Anything Goes.

Having only discovered Anything Goes in recent years, it has quickly become one of my favourite musicals. I love its classic “at sea” setting, the Cole Porter soundtrack, the vintage PG Wodehouse comedy element and the dance sequences. So, I approached Concept Players’ presentation, which opened its run at Newport’s Dolman Theatre on Thursday evening with some excitement and some trepidation. I needn’t have worried.

Anything Goes finds Young New York Stockbroker Billy Crocker stowing away on a transatlantic liner, the S.S. American heading to England in pursuit of his one true love, the beautiful heiress, Hope Harcourt. Along the way, and in the spirit of true farce, Billy finds himself avoiding his boss, the pompous Elisha J Whitney, while forming an allegiance an unsuccessful gangster, Moonface Martin and making several attempts to separate Hope from her future husband, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh.

Helping the action along is the sultry nightclub singer evangelist and long-time acquaintance of Billy, Reno Sweeney, her Angels, two corrupt nuns, a gangster’s moll, plus a Captain and his crew. All become embroiled in a riot of comedic situations including mistaken identities and mad disguises as the lead protagonists fall in and out of love.

Concept Players’ staging of Anything Goes features a static set with the action taking place on the deck of the S.S. American.  Spot lighting directs to various areas of the stage to compensate for scenes in the ship’s hold and enabling the action to flow easily from one scene to the next.

The comedic element of Anything Goes is timed to perfection with Shane Rose-Goodsir as the hero of the piece, Billy Crocker, who frequently finds himself pushed from pillar to post adopting disguises to be with his true love. Paul Buckle’s Moonface Martin demonstrates lots of energetic exchanges with fellow passengers and there are some lovely scenes with Cat Bailie as his moll, the squawky, but endearing Erma.

Stephen Hopkins effectively displays shades of a Wooster-ish beau in his portrayal of Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, and for a time, it seems that Ellie Hoare’s desirable and moralistic Hope Harcourt will totally forsake true love to be with him.  

Hayley Toms gives an exciting portrayal of the vivacious Reno Sweeney as she embraces the performance of the Cole Porter standard, I Get a Kick Out Of You. There was more to enjoy as she led the company with plenty of jazz pizazz on Blow Gabriel Blow and Anything Goes. I was also uplifted and enthralled on her duets with Shane Rose-Goodsir (You’re the Top) and Paul Buckle (Friendship) which featured great choreography as well as a refreshing on-stage energy that demonstrated the performers were having a lot of fun.

Credit must go to Musical Director Christopher Fossey for a perfectly tuned presentation of Cole Porter’s soundtrack and Director Ruairidh Macleod Lyon and his creative team for pulling all the elements together, including the brilliant ensemble cast for this feelgood show.  Concept Players’ Anything Goes really is The Top and a De-lovely way to spend a few hours at the theatre.

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