Southern Light, the oldest musical theatre company in Edinburgh, unfortunately put on a performance of Anything Goes! that lacked discipline in dancing and acting.
However, it was clear from the beginning that Reno Sweeney (Toni MacFarlane) was the star of the production. The gorgeous tones of her voice, sharp dance moves, as well as her embodiment of the Evangelist turned nightclub singer stole every scene she was in (which is most of the production!). The introduction of Reno through the number ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’ contrasted with Billy Crocker’s (Matt McDonaugh) stiff acting and dancing. He does however have a lovely voice, though it lacked control in terms of his vocal jumps. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Billy and Reno’s character dynamic, especially with the number ‘You’re the Top’.
Following Billy’s love story with Hope Harcourt (Rebekah Lansley) in Act I, I was surprised by the lack of chemistry between actors portraying lovers. While Lansley’s acting was genuine and we could feel emotions ring through her lovely vocal timbre, her duet (‘It’s De-Lovely’) with Billy seemed to lack sincerity and love, however charming the number was intended to be.
Alongside the main protagonists’ love story, we were also introduced to the delightful couple Elisha Whitney (John Bruce) and Evangeline Harcourt (Dorothy Johnstone). Their refreshing unrequited-love works well with dynamic acting and extended vocal range during conversations. Alongside this couple, Act II portrayed the love between Reno and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Kerr-Alexander Syme), whose hilarious and flamboyant characterisation is excellently portrayed.
There was also Moonface Martin (Peter Tomassi) and Erma (Tanya Williamson). Although they are not love interests, Williamson’s portrayal of the cheeky, sultry, yet naïve Erma shows off her amazing acting skills – especially putting the high squeals in speech for her character! Similarly, Tomassi’s acting was superb – his joy of playing ‘Public Enemy #13’ shows in his bright stage presence. The way he commands each scene and generates specific character dynamics between Moonface and Billy/Reno/Erma is clever and excellent. In fact, one of the only balanced numbers in terms of stage presence, acting, singing, and dancing is his friendship duet with Reno (‘Friendship’).
Unfortunately, the production really lacks refinement in terms of dancing and acting, especially from the sailor chorus. While the choreography (by Louise Williamson) shows brilliant potential and movement, most of the dancing lacked energy, enthusiasm, and tension. This was especially evident in the title number ‘Anything Goes!’, which is an intricate jazz and tap-dancing number. The sailors contrasted negatively against Reno and her ‘angels’, who danced with more vigour and professionalism. With the lack of discipline and timing in dance, the band had to overcompensate by playing louder than the crisp sound of the taps.
Nonetheless, the production featured excellent staging (Scenic Projects; SIMPOL Staging), lighting (James Gow), and wardrobe (Kate Dixon). These aspects assisted the sub-par acting and dancing, and brought extravagance onto King’s Theatre. The use of spacing on stage with the band being on the upper level of the SS American, where rooms below can be split and pulled down when necessary, and where items like drapes/disco balls drop down, created an adaptable and aesthetically pleasing set. This was stunning alongside the excellent colour schemes in the lighting and costumes in numbers like ‘Easy to Love’, ‘It’s De-Lovely’, and ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’. In all, it was an aesthetically brilliant production, sadly hindered by a lacklustre performance.
PHOTOS: Ryan Buchanan Photography
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