In the 1930s, the term 'musical comedy' meant exactly that, and writers of
musicals were not constrained to serve up plot, characters and songs in a seamless
fusion. So, a typical 1930s musical, Anything Goes is little more than a
shipboard romp, with musical items only loosely related to the madcap comings and goings of
star-crossed lovers, a sexy lady evangelist, her troupe of "angels", a titled English twit,
his mother, a missionary, a comic gangster, et al.
Such a free-wheeling entertainment needs crisp staging, sets and
costumes to give it shape, which you cannot expect in Production Company offerings, given
their limited rehearsal period and the absence of scenery. Director Peter J. Adams is
only mildly successful in the daunting taks of trying to pull off a door shut/door open
farce without any doors to play with, but the wisecracking script and the quality of the
Cole Porter score (like the script, updated for the 1980s revival with interpolated Porter
material) ultimately win through, delivering more fun than most productions in this series.
The stellar role of evangelist Reno Sweeny (created by the legendary
belter Ethel Merman) calls for someone older and a bit more sassy than Chelsea Gibb,
especially in the famous comic duet You're the Top and the show's exuberant title
number, but Gibb cuts a svelte, glamorous figure and her singing of the other Merman
classic, I Get a Kick out of You is right on the button.
Kane Alexander and Theresa Borg are stylish and perfectly cast as the
young lovers, Billy and Hope, delivering the show's best singing in three charming Porter
ballads, All Through the Night, Easy to Love and Goodbye, Little Dream,
The comedy roles are zestfully handled by Marty Fields (Moonface, the
gangster), Val Jellay (Evangeline), Ernie Bourne (Whitney) and Christina Tan (Erma), who
also scores in her vamp number, Buddy Beware.
But it's Philip Gould who steals the show. As he revealed in
Forbidden Broadway, this former Young Talent Time juvenile has instinctive
comic sensibilities, and his performance as the daft Sir Evelyn Oakleigh doesn't miss a
trick, culminating in his richly funny Act II song and dance, The Gypsy in Me, a
Memo to anyone looking to cast an Australian production of Mel Brooks'
mega-hit musical, The Producers: put Gould at the top of your list.
The peppy 19-piece band, under the direction of John Foreman, and the
choreography of Dana Jolly are other vital ingredients in an audience-pleasing show.