Anything Goes, YAOS, Octagon Theatre, Yeovil

IT’s easy to imagine that the cult of celebrity is a phenomenon of the 21st century, but paparazzi have been chasing stars and venue owners have been encouraging big names – notorious or famous – for at least a century.

Cole Porter’s glorious, frothy musical, Anything Goes, set on a transatlantic liner in the great days of sailing in and out of New York harbour, plays with this trope. The Captain (David Hallett in this excellent Yeovil Amateur Operatic Society production) is disappointed that his purser can find no big names on the list of passengers. There are no film stars, prominent divorcees, royals (European or Hollywood) or other people who regularly make the front pages.

Imagine his delight then, when he learns that there are two major criminals on board. Cue fancy penguin suits and a place at the captain’s table for small-time crook Moonface Martin (hilarious Luke Whitchurch) and lovelorn financial adviser Billy Crocker (energetic Nick Harris).

Anything Goes first opened in 1934, and starred the larger-than-life Ethel Merman as Reno Sweeney, the showgirl who is the undisputed star of the show. That role in Yeovil falls to Jennifer Holland-Brewer, and she makes it her own. It’s a truly fabulous performance – from the gorgeous gowns to the infectious tap-dancing, crowned with a great singing voice and a vibrant sense of humour.

Louise Cannon –most recently Elle Woods in YAOS’ Legally Blonde – is Billy Crocker’s true love Hope Harcourt, charming and sweet-voiced and not at all happy with the plans of her mother (the excellent Liz Stallard) for her to marry a British aristocrat, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Nick Toop, who gives a show-stopping performance of The Gypsy in Me.)

Directed by Sheila Driver, who is also responsible for the brilliant and at times breath-taking choreography, this show, the last for YAOS at the Octagon, which closes shortly for a two-year makeover, will go down as one of this talented company’s best. It’s a hoot from start to finish, beautifully costumed, with a great set, and an excellent band, led from the top deck by musical director Jessamy Bowditch.

Anything Goes is at the Octagon until 1st April.


Photographs by Len Copland.

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