Anything Goes

‘Anything Goes’ was a book written by P.G. Wodehouse that was adapted into a musical almost 90 years ago; with lyrics by Cole Porter and music by Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse. The 1987 revival looked ‘aged’, so in 2011, with only minor changes by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, a revamped version of the musical was produced.

The Stray Cats Theatre Company and Mandurah Performing Arts Centre are proud to present this massive musical in the large theatre of the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre. Never heard of the musical? You would know and could sing along with at least half a dozen of the show’s song classics.

The five 3-hour shows ran from Thursday 7th to Sunday 10th October. 

Scene:   1934. On board a luxury liner, the SS American.

Set:        The set filled the stage. It was the main deck of a white, three-funnelled liner, with stairs up to the sundeck.

Set building:       The talented set building team comprised Mal Thompson, Peter Francis, Bill Bargerbos, Duncan Anderson and Tony Holding. With every ‘metal plate’ being realistically riveted together the spectacle was amazing.

Head artist:        was Bronwyn White; with the massive task of set painting and decoration by Bronwyn White, Michelle Thompson, Coral Hoffbeck, Kerry Tarbuck, Lyn Tamplin, Karen Francis, Aidan Thomas, Alex White, Colin Howe, Sienna Gardyne, Tahnaya Minchin, Sheryl Gale, Sommer Hester, Emily Lambert, Mitchell Vickers and Leanne Smart.

Fly mechanists: were kept busy raising all the set flats and mechanical changes, well done Ciaron McCormack and Jamie Murray.

Spotlights:           In the theatre, operators are famous for being terrible, but Lachlan McNeil and Thomas Hennessy followed the actors accurately and managed to have quite a tight narrow beam.

Microphones:    Sarah Bridgman and sound technician Dylan Conroy had a tricky task with dozens of headset and microphones – brilliant work.

Props:   Sheryl Gale assisted by Monique Kinnest found treasures from the 1920s and 30s. that made the whole show look authentic.

Lighting:               Nick Morant and Karen Francis filled the stage with vibrant colours and great mood lighting.

Production manager:     Kristie Corbishley had this huge task of getting everything prepared on time and controlling the show’s flow; faultless. Ably assisted by stage managers: Jennifer Friend and Karen Francis, and their assistants Ella Thompson and Mary Castle. Backstage Mitchell Vickers, Kieran Hall, Matthias Zver, Julian Wheeler, Jaxan Bower, Alex Davis, Billy Roberts and Brody Koller.

Publicity Peter and Karen Francis, with Mandurah Performing Arts Centre

Programme photography, the programme and poster design again, skilfully done in the style of the era, by Kristie Hennessy. Extra photography by Gemma Little.

The lights faded and the beautiful, full, perfectly balanced sound of the orchestra struck up with the opening number. The unique sound of the 1920s and 30s was obvious from the opening bars. Within seconds the audience were hooked, and feet were tapping. Great orchestration and feeling created by the musical director, Vanitha Hart and her Orchestra: Keys – Warren Bracken; Reeds – Bec Moroney, Blake Faulkner, Connor Siekman and Flynn Passamani; Violin – Zoe Chua; Trumpet – Laura Halligan and Matthew Knight; Trombone – Lindsay Bush; Guitar – William Christensen; Bass – Jonathan Chen; Drums – Thomas Selim; Percussion – Steven Hartley, Zac Skelton.

Pit singers Rory Ellis, Michael Baker and Scott Hansen.

In the Manhattan Lounge, barman Fred (Kieran Hall) serves a young Wall Street broker Billy Crocker (Braeden Geuer – fabulous voice and delivery) as he helps his boss Elisha J. Whitney (Andy Vernie), a banker, prepare for his trip to London. Eli tells Billy that the next morning he must sell a share that has become a sinking asset.

Billy discovers that his strange evangelist friend Reno Sweeney (Emily Lambert – vivacious, great voice) has become a nightclub singer and is leaving on the same ship to London. Reno, who is madly in love with Billy, tries to get him to join her; but he explains that he has fallen in love with someone else.

                The next morning, under the watchful eye of the Purser (Colin Howe), the crew of the SS American prepare to set sail, Reno and the other passengers clamber on board. Amongst them is an American debutante, Hope Harcourt (Tannah Pridmore – delightful), joined by her wealthy English fiancé, the eccentric Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Azza Gee – perfect comedy delivery) along with Hope’s haughty and overbearing mother, Evangeline Harcourt (Alyssa Burton). Billy comes aboard to give Eli his passport and spots Hope, the woman he loves. Upon hearing that she’s to be wed, he stays on the ship to pursue her. Also on the ship is American Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin (Alex White – always great value) who is disguised as a priest. He is joined by Erma (Kristie Corbishley – beautiful voice and comedy combined), the promiscuous girlfriend of Public Enemy #1, Snake Eyes Johnson, who is nowhere to be found. Billy inadvertently helps Moonface evade the FBI agents (Mitchell Vickers and Julian Wheeler), who returns the favour by giving Billy Snake Eyes’ ticket as the ship leaves the dock.

                Later that night, Billy bumps into an apologetic Reno who encourages him to go after his real love. Though Hope returns Billy’s feeling, she insists on maintaining her duty and marrying Evelyn.

                Eli drunkenly and unsuccessfully invites Evangeline to spend the night with him. In the next room, Moonface and Erma are visited by Billy, who hides when the ship’s Captain (Aidan Thomas) arrives to reveal that that Billy is believed to be Snake Eyes Johnson.

The next morning a group of sailors (Michael Baker – fabulous rich bass voice, and tenor Rory Ellis) sing about the joy of seeing women as they come ashore. Erma steals a seaman’s uniform to disguise Billy from the crew and his boss. Shortly after Reno encounters her old friend Moonface, Evelyn approaches revealing that he is a huge fan, and invites Reno to his room for tea. Moonface tries to blackmail him and break up the engagement.

                The whole ship has gathered to honour Billy as ‘Public Enemy Number One’. After an Old lady (Tammie Pursell) unsuccessfully trying to get him and Hope back together, Reno begins her performance for that night. She starts out with a sermon asking passengers to confess their sins. In his confession, Evelyn tells every one of the time he had casual sex with a Chinese woman named Plum Blossom.

The passengers (Amy Elliott and Sheryl Gale) convince Billy to make a confession. He reveals that he’s not Snake Eyes Johnson and apologises to Hope. Moonface tries to defend him, but both are thrown in the brig (the boats jail). Reacting to this development, Evangeline moves the wedding up to the next morning on the ship and a heartbroken Hope realises her chance at true love is over.

                Moonface attempts to cheer up a depressed Billy. Erma visits them, to deliver a letter from Hope where she confesses her love for Billy. Reno then meets Evelyn on the deck, where he admits that he doesn’t love Hope. Despite this, his sense of honour does not allow him to break off the engagement. Evelyn shows his true feelings, and they have a passionate tango dance – a hilarious highlight of the show.

                Two Chinese passengers Ching and Ling (now politically corrected to ‘John’ (Zoe Hubbard) and ‘Luke’ (Charlie Baker) who are two Chinese ‘converts’ and reformed gamblers, accompany Bishop Henry T. Dobson and Minister (Matthias Zver) are thrown into the jail with Billy and Moonface for gambling. Reno then comes to tell her friends that she and Evelyn have fallen in love with each other. Knowing that the Chinese will be let out in an hour, the three then steal their clothes to get Billy and Moonface out in time to stop the wedding. On the deck, Erma is proposed to by all the sailors she’s slept with during the cruise.

                The wedding starts with the reporters (Alexandra Wall and Teaghan Lowry) and photographer (Morgan Randall) there, but is interrupted when Reno, Billy, and Moonface run in wearing Chinese garb. They claim that Reno is Plum Blossom, a Chinese princess that Evelyn dishonoured when he slept with her. Hope intervenes by saying the only way for Evelyn to right his wrong is if he offers her to Plum Blossom’s relative. Evelyn goes along with this, giving Hope away to Billy, and then proposing to Reno who accepts as she unmasks herself. Accompanied by the Angels – Chastity (Rhiannon Garnham), Virtue (Eibhlis Newman), Purity (Gemma Turanski) and Charity (Tara Elliott), all three couples now together sing to each other as they’re married and the whole ship celebrates.

Show girls:         Alyssa Murakami, Caitlin Wainwright, Charlie Baker, Chelsea Hobson, Kaylee Whitmore, Keely Hockley, Monique Butchart, Monique Kinnest, Sienna Gardyne, Sommer Hester, Tahnaya Minchin, Tess Lucas, Alexandra Wall, Teaghan Lowry and Morgan Randall.

Ensemble:           Aleesha Triglia, Alex Davis, Alex Phillips, Allyson Wheeler, Amelia Gaunt, Annah Swaddling, Anya Sayer, Asha Pickering, Ashleigh Hankin, Bethany Cousins, Billy Roberts, Brody Koller, Emily Tamplin, India Blakiston, Jaxan Bower, Karen Jarvis, Lizzie Baker, Makayla Carter, Luis Proctor, Rachelle Johnstone, Rebecca O’Neill, Robert Kett and Yu-yi Liao.

The show girls and the ensemble were magnificent. Head choreographer Caitlin Wainwright with Leanne Driel, aided by Matthias Zver had the dance routines covered perfectly. in a tap dance and remarks that nowadays, “Anything Goes”.

The costumières Linda Lowry, Kim Parker, Cathy Wainwright, Pat Francis, Karen Francis, Sheryl Gale. covered scenes such as posh evening dinners with black gowns, scarlet

In respect to Director Karen Francis, what can one say? Karen has such tremendous strength and ambitions, never settling for good, when even ‘special’ is the lowest standard. Karen is involved in every aspect of her shows, demonstrating the depth and range of her talents. You can tell when a show has been directed by a tough dictator, the shows lack vigour and life. Karen’s shows are made with her love of the actors, and this is reciprocated by them.

A fabulous musical with every one of the audience smiling as they left.

The actors? Well, they had another 3-hour show to perform about 90 minutes later. MANY congratulations to all concerned.