A Review By Hannah Wilson
‘Anything Goes’ is a musical set during the 1930s on a luxury cruise ship and is a fun-loving, old-fashioned farce created as an escapism during the Great Depression. It has been produced by multiple stage companies, the most current being Forth Children’s Theatre’s (FCT), an Edinburgh-based amateur youth theatre company.
The show revolves around a comically colourful assemblage of passengers boarding the S.S American setting sail from New York to England: Reno Sweeney, a popular nightclub singer and former Evangelist; her pal Billy Crocker, a lovelorn Wall Street broker who has come aboard to try to win the favour of his beloved Hope Harcourt who is engaged to another passenger, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh; and a second-rate conman named Moonface Martin, aka “Public Enemy #13.” Song, dance, and wacky antics ensue as Reno and Moonface try to help Billy win the love of his life.
Debs Anderson, the Director, brought the show to life in many more ways than one. Even before the show begins, the audience is greeted with the call of seagulls dancing around the theatre adding a beautiful coastal touch from the start. The 1930s were immediately brought to life during the three-minute overture with a live band bringing a glorifying feature to the show, the alto saxophone, in particular, reminiscent of the time period.
Prior to the show, I was concerned with how the modest location of the Edinburgh Tabernacle could host a production based on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The set, however, did not disappoint and I was blown away by the innovative use of design – a Titanic-style boat that allowed the show to take place on the deck, in cabins, a dance hall, and bar. The warm lighting added a sense of luxury, elegance and romance to the stage.
The actors aged between 10 and 18 years, all played their parts incredibly. Billy and Hope had a number of emotional and breathtaking scenes. During ‘It’s De-Lovely’, both characters were intertwined in their dancing, and reduced lighting beautifully highlighted the shapes and physicality of the performers, their silhouettes conveying their forbidden love. In contrast to this, the uplifting dance and energy from the whole cast in ‘Bon Voyage’ portrayed the excitement of passengers setting sail.
The use of movement with the cast swaying from side to side pulled the audience further into the storyline and I felt as if I was a family member waving a passenger off on their journey. Scenes set in the dance hall with Reno performing made the audience feel as if they were also on board and the limited space of the venue was used cleverly to further enhance this. The aisle between the seated audience was seized by Reno as she strutted down to the stage, and also by Hope as she elegantly made her way towards the alter.
Taylor Doig’s choreography had the audience in a chokehold and was mesmeric, the outrageous tap numbers were clearly researched to match the theme of the 1930s. The comedic numbers ‘Be Like The Bluebird’, ‘The Gypsy In Me’ and ‘Buddie, Beware’ had the audience guffawing throughout and Peter Leslie’s musical direction cemented the essence of the show.
Given the challenges with the size and setting of the production, the complicated nature of blending comedy, romance and energy and the huge musical numbers demanding strong vocal aptitudes, this show was executed to perfection by the young cast and production team. ‘Anything Goes’ was certainly a rip-roaring success for Forth Children’s Theatre and one not to be forgotten!