Anything Goes, Milborne Port Opera

MILBORNE Port Opera, set up in 1990 to sing Gilbert and Sullivan, has branched out in another new direction, choosing Cole Porter’s Anything Goes for the annual show. There are also three directors, which makes for lots of new ideas, many of which work well.

The big difference for the audience is that the story is told “in the long”, with the band at one end of the village hall, the action in the centre, and the audience raked on both sides and a couple of rows of seats on stage, too.

The widescreen view adds a spectacular dimension to this romance set on board ship between New York and London. PG Wodehouse contributed to the book, so a certain style is assured, and the music, which includes You’re the Top, BonVoyage, It’s De-Lovely, I Get a Kick out of You, Blow Gabriel Blow, All Through the Night and of course the title song, retains its hummable foot-tappingness.

The complicated story is of American heiress Hope Harcourt, engaged to English Sir Evelyn Oakleigh but in love with Billy Crocker, a Wall Street broker working for the vastly wealthy Elisha J Whitney.  Then there is nightclub singer and “evangelist” Reno Sweeney, up-and-coming gangster Moonface Martin, his moll Bonnie, and assorted gamblers, missionaries and rank-and-file travellers.

The scene is set for deception, mistaken identity, flamboyant disguise and lots of singing and dancing before the ship docks at Tilbury, three hours later.

It would be impossible to mention everyone in this huge and versatile cast, but Matthew Baker steals every scene as a marvellously effete Sir Evelyn, Sukie Read is a loud and loveable Reno, Lloyd Davies a very funny Billy and Rachel Milestone-McAdorey’s voice reminds us that this is a an opera company.  Ben Grundy’s Moonface  grows in confidence, and Karen Pankhurst is a classic Bonnie.

The inventiveness of the set and the setting (bringing the company in through the audience, framing the leading actors for photographs, etc) leaves too many opportunities for error, and a bit more rehearsal time would have been useful. I’m sure it will tighten up by the end of the run.

As always, the band gave excellent support, again under the direction of Caroline D’Cruz. There must be something very enjoyable about playing Porter’s classic songs and the audience welcomed their familiarity.

And the theme of the transatlantic liner was extended not just throughout the main hall but out into the foyer and beyond, welcoming the audience for their own voyage – nice touch!


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