Theatre HB, Playhouse Theatre, Hastings St, Hastings Nightly until December 16, 7.30pm
Reviewed by Keith Russell
Cole Porter's score for Anything Goes is one of the most glorious in the history of American musical theatre, so combine that with Guy Bolton and P G Wodehouse's farcical romantic story aboard an ocean liner.
However, this version has been heavily revised by several other writers, it is only now after 83 years that it is finally taking its maiden trip with Theatre HB.
This is a stem-to-stern voyage of excitement that boasts spot-on casting, superb performances, adrenaline-pumping tap dancing, a bold imaginative set and clever musicianship, which results in an infectious two hours of sheer joy. All this is brought together by director Glen Pickering, set design by Michael Cooper, heart-stopping choreography by Corinne Bowey and musical direction under the control of Amanda Cooper.
As brassy 1930s occasional evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, Alex Richardson steps into shoes worn by others, including Ethel Merman and Elaine Paige.
Her voice is commanding, well projected with a rich tone, along with powerhouse dancing. For this show to work Richardson has to be a powerhouse and believe me, she is.
She also has the distinction of striking up real chemistry with all her co-stars and to this effect Pickering has assisted her by surrounding her with a class crew. John Graham is perfectly cast as Billy Crocker and he pulls off a tough role with skill and personality, along with his employer, Wall St tycoon Elisha Whitney, played by John Newland.
Matt Kidd as gangster Moonface Martin nearly steals the show with his facial expressions and poorly-designed effects to conceal his identity. It is hard to single out further individual performances with such a high-calibre cast. With the likes of Olivia Karlsson as Hope Harcourt, Nicole Brebner as Erma Latour and Kim Wright as Evangeline Harcourt, but a special mention must go to the hard-working Michael Sharp as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.
Even a minor character like the Captain is made memorable by veteran actor John Price who, after treading the boards for a lifetime, gets to step out on the deck, so to speak.
Pickering gives us a controlled delivery on the choreographic elements but this just makes the tap dancing explosion of Anything Goes at the close of act one all the more memorable.
After recovering at the interval we are hit again with the wild evangelical song Blow Gabriel Blow delivered in a performance by the ensemble that will leave you breathless. Lighting designed by Cameron Lithgow is both practical and suitable to the mood Pickering has created and the backlit portholes add a special touch to the liner's exterior.
I enjoyed this show and I am certain you will too, so it is maybe fitting we leave the last words to Cole Porter: "In olden days, a glimpse of a stocking was looked on as something shocking, but now, God knows - anything goes.''
¦Tickets at iticket.co.nz