Review: Royal City Musical Theatre’s “Anything Goes”
Theatre does not age well. Well, bad theatre doesn’t. Naturally, classics are classics for a reason, and Anything Goes is certainly one of the most beloved musicals of all time. The Cole Porter classic is fun, light, and fluffy, but it also contains a plethora of great musical theatre tunes that have gone on to become standards, making it a timeless romp that is as clever as it is catchy.
1934, the year the show premiered on Broadway, was certainly a long time ago, though. The face of musicals has changed drastically since then, so what interest do modern audiences have in a story about folks on an ocean liner causing oddball antics? A lot, apparently. The premise may be fairly basic and the narrative a bit overly zany, but Anything Goes still boasts a good half dozen really good tunes (Which is fairly mentionable when a lot of contemporary shows rely on the boast of one single big number and a bunch of lesser tunes) that help carry the show into being a thrilling production to witness onstage.
Certainly, Anything Goes could be a bit lackluster if not delivered with the proper theatrical elements. But a good production can make an 80 year old piece of work feel fresh and new. Royal City has done a bang up job with Anything Goes that somehow makes it feel entirely fresh, almost making you forget this thing is getting on to the near century mark in age. In fact, the production feels entirely slick and essentially Broadway-level, with its seamless sets, flawless delivery, and premium talent at the helm.
If there’s one thing Anything Goes relies upon, it’s a knockout performance in lead character Reno Sweeney. In this rendition, we have the magnificent Madeleine Suddaby acting as the evangelist turned nightclub singer, and what a delight she is onstage. Suddaby’s Reno is equally sweet and sassy, and as fiery as she is introspective. Of course, she sings most of the big, powerful songs that make up Anything Goes, and she does so with unprecedented stamina. From the early swoon-worthy “I Get A Kick Out Of You” to the huge, wild “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” that defines the entire second half of the show (not to mention every other big song in between), we are given a performance that continually delivers with sheer quality and dazzling excitement. Of course, Suddaby’s Reno is funny and enchanting in her acting chops on top of this.
The rest of the cast is a bit mixed, but mostly land on the fun, sweet side. Other notable performers include Andrew Cownden, who brings a humble realism to D-list gangster Moonface Martin, and Daniel James White as flailing Wall Street broken Billy Martin. Both performers manage to take the fairly formulaic roles to new places with some stunning updated nuances that add a nice layer of depth.
But this produciton of Anything Goes, even with its big, exciting performers, looks just as good when looking at the whole package as it does when you hone in. The ensemble delivers meticulous choreography and group musical numbers that have a way of making you feel like you’re right there with them on this giant boat.
It’s a troubled, flawed journey for the characters of Anything Goes trying to navigate their lives out at sea, but for the audience it’s only a sheer delight. The story is fun and cute, the production is pristine, and the technical elements add small but well received details that the audience eats right up.
Royal City Musical Theatre’s take on Anything Goes shows the important connection between a strong canvas to work on and the ways you can use that launching point as a way to build on in fun, impressive ways. When you have this many strong creative elements at play, it’s a winning situation for everyone. You’re guaranteed to grin from ear to ear when the curtain closes, and have a medley of great tunes playing on a loop in your head for a solid week afterward.
Main image: Laura Ross (Center) and the cast of Royal City Musical Theatre’s production of Anything Goes. All photography by Tim Matheson.
Anything Goes: Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter, Original Book by P.G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse; New Book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman. Directed by Valerie Easton.
Royal City Musical Theatre’s production of Anything Goes runs through April 23, 2017 at the Massey Theatre in New Westminster.