Anything Goes

Civic Theatre, cnr of Queen Street & Wellesley Street West, Auckland

29/09/2011 - 22/10/2011

Production Details


After an absence of 15 years, one of the world’s most celebrated musicals ANYTHING GOESreturns to THE EDGE stage. A gloriously screwball musical that escapes into the madcap world of luxury cruising, where gangster meets priest, revivalist turns nightclub singer, and chaos ensues onboard a cruise ship sailing the high seas ANYTHING GOES is set to sail into Auckland in time for the Rugby World Cup 2011.

This is a strictly limited season brought to the Civic stage by Auckland Music Theatre in conjunction with Amici Productions – the team behind the critically acclaimed seasons of 42ND STREET, CATS and RENT.

This hilarious, madcap musical features enduring COLE PORTER hits such as I Get A Kick Out Of You, All Through The Night, You’re The Top, It’s De-Lovely and Anything Goes.

Telling the age-old tale of boy-meets-girl and the complications that ensue, ANYTHING GOES will delight and intrigue every audience. Set in the early 1930s onboard a cruise liner, the S.S. American, bound from New York to London, it carries an unusual group of passengers. Included amongst them are a gangster (Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin), a wealthy debutante and her mother (Hope and Evangeline Harcourt), a nightclub singer (Reno Sweeny), and a wealthy New York businessman and his stowaway assistant (Elisha Whitney and Billy Crocker).

When Billy falls in love with heiress Hope, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, he stows away, setting off a chain reaction of comedic consequences that has passengers and crew singing and dancing their way across the Atlantic. This crazy comedy is replete with disguises and mistaken identities and, eventually, four happy couples a perfect mix for any classic Broadway musical.

Showcasing an all New Zealand cast and full orchestra, ANYTHING GOES will treat audiences to a journey of toe-tapping fun and frivolity, featuring sublime characters and stunning, all original, sets and costumes. This all new production of the American classic will wow, young and old alike.

29 September – 22 October 2011

The Civic, THE EDGE
Auckland’s Premier Theatre
TICKETS: $35.00*
$85.00* or: 0800 BUYTICKETS
*Service fees apply.


Jackie Clarke
Tyran Parke
Delwynne Winter
Richard Neame
Lynn Webster
Ray Woolf
Nigel Godfrey
Alexandra Foster
Craig Rodgers
Erwin Cifra
Jarrod Lee
Tim Skinner
Camille Boyte, Angeline Hair, Lisa McNeill, 
Michaela Nicholls
Chris Blackburn, Mark Bradley, Christopher Bryan, 
Clayton Curnow, Siobhan Dixon, Richard Griffiths, 
Romel Gonzales,Tracey Holdsworth, Lewis Francis, 
Melinda Joe,Travis McWalter, Dwayne Mallo, 
Clinton Meneses, Marissa Prescott, Rebecca 
Schoonbeek-Berridge, Rachel Strange, 
Tracie Winters, Jason Yang-Westland
Grant Meese
Penny Dodd
Leigh Evans
Justine de Kock
Alf Weston
John Hodgkins
Phillip Dexter
Trish McLennan

Porter’s merry dance has enough fun to sink a ship

Review by Janet McAllister 01st Oct 2011

The master’s timeless songs superbly presented by a top-notch cast 

Cole Porter’s smart-to-be-silly, witty-and-warm songs are so exceptional that they could pull this 1934 hit musical comedy through by themselves. But Auckland Music Theatre isn’t pulling back; instead, it layers other treats on top of Porter’s fantastic musical anchor to create a tremendous night out, with brilliant casting and huge song-and-dance numbers.

Onboard a trans-Atlantic ship, the large gaggle of comic characters can hide but they can’t run. Shenanigans in disguise ensue at a good pace it’s all great fun. The acting, directed by Grant Meese, is perfect for this genre. Flame-haired Jackie Clarke is the bright centre as the leading sassy dame; and when he grins, Australian Tyran Parke as the affable romantic lead looks rather like a young Hugh Grant. [More
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Escapist stuff where, as with Wall Street, anything goes

Review by Lexie Matheson 30th Sep 2011

Juliet asks this of Romeo and replies to her own question that it doesn’t really matter what something is called, it will still be what it is. She clearly hadn’t experienced Cole Porter’s Anything Goes because if she had, she’d have realised that sometimes names can tell us exactly what we’re in for because in Porter’s Anything Goes well … anything goes.

This is important because finding the right balance between abject silliness and robust seriousness is critical to the success of this work. Too much gravitas and it’s just nonsense, too much levity and there’s simply no point to it at all. 

In Grant Meese’s Anything Goes everything goes. The balances are just right. It takes itself just seriously enough to transcend our disbelief and is staged with a self-confident assurance that stops just short of downright arrogance. 

It’s a wonderfully foolish story colonised by a bouquet of fantastical characters all of whom get to sing brilliantly stylish songs and hoof about a bit in sumptuously decadent 1930’s frocks. That’s what it is, that’s what Meese and his team have made it, and that was quite enough.

The evening started auspiciously with the full house happily applauding the syrupy announcement that reminded us that the taking photographs is not allowed and suggesting, ever so politely, that we should all turn our cell phones off. Even more impressive is the orchestra’s vigorous and accurate playing of the entr’acte reminding us, if we needed reminding, that this is a show full of tunes we all knew.

There’s a downside to presenting a show full of known quantities – the dreaded death by comparison – but Penny Dodd’s classy ensemble consistently rises above this and it is as though we are meeting old friends again; friends who, remarkably enough, have improved with age yet demand to be met anew. Dodd’s musical direction is flawless and her seventeen strong team are stunning from first toot to the last tweet. 

The sets throughout are grand. Designed by John Hodgkins and built to perfection they serve the work splendidly. Consisting primarily of an upper and lower deck connected by two sets of stairs there’s plenty of room centre stage to generate the action and loads of unique places for entrances and exits, as well as room for clever interleaved trucks for scenes not set on the main deck.

Alf Weston’s costumes are equally impressive. The 1930’s was a wonderful decade for clothes allowing for oodles of creative license and Weston totally uses his up without going outside the realm of credibility. Designing great clothes and having them made beautifully as these are – special mention must be made of Melissa Mazur and Louise Peters who co-ordinated the outstanding shoe collection – is only part of the picture however. Getting the actors to wear them well is almost more of a challenge and these actors have the period down to a tee. They wear Weston’s clothes with unqualified flair and the myriad of costume changes are handled seamlessly (pun intended) by the band of dressers and wardrobe assistants. 

In fact, a real feature of this production is the care and attention to detail in all aspects of the presentation. 

It’s seldom that all the parts come together as a cohesive whole so well when the parts are as disparate as they are in musical theatre but here there is seemingly no issue. This is an all singing, all dancing, all confidence cast and there are few lapses in performance quality.

Leigh Evans is responsible for the choreography and great choreography it is. Evans is fortunate to have a core of leads each of whom can sing and dance at the same time. It’s only my personal opinion but I felt that in this department – and others – Jackie Clarke (Reno Sweeney) outshines both Ethel Merman and Sutton Foster in this role simply because, along with ‘that voice’, Clarke is a more than competent hoofer and she shines in her duets with Tyran Parke (Billy Crocker), Richard Neame (Lord Evelyn Oakley) and Nigel Godfrey (Moonface Martin).

One of the dangers in presenting musicals of this sort is allowing the songs to become divorced from the narrative and having them stand out as being of little or no relevance to the story, to the style or to the development of character. Not so in Grant Meese’s excellent production as each abundantly informs the other. The songs throughout are sung with intelligence and heart,with the minor observation that the more reflective pieces may have been, on opening night, pushed a wee bit too hard; a concern that will easily be resolved as the singers allow themselves to relax back into the lyric and permit us to share somewhat more fully in their reflection.

Meese’s production also avoids the pitfall of rampant realism which is mercifully replaced by a heightened and wittily credible comic style with a zipping pace to match. The comedy throughout is tight, the characters (in the main) oddly believable while the narrative patently is not. The success of this is perhaps best exemplified by the many tired old gags that litter the text which are delivered in a way that ensures they all still work. The result is a sharp New York feel which allows us to slip effortlessly into this speakeasy world of gangsters, Wall Street hucksters, sailor lads, showgirls and the gentry.  

The rule that the bigger the cast the longer the tail doesn’t hold true for this production of Anything Goes and the cast have a well rehearsed uniformity that helps maintain credibility. While there is naturally a variability in performance quality this at no time detracts from the overall success of the production. The chorus work is strong throughout with the company in fine fettle and the Angels especially divine most notably in Blow Gabriel Blow. 

There’s this old thing called ‘star quality’ and Jackie Clarke has it. She has lots of it. She has so much of it, in fact, that she freely shares it with anyone and everyone who takes the stage with her. Her Reno Sweeney has everything: pizzazz, oomph, zing and, when required, pathos. She shines alone, she shines in her duets and she shines in the big production numbers. This could well have become the Jackie Clarke show but she doesn’t let it go that way. She merely does what’s necessary and leaves it at that. That’s class with a capital K. 

Which isn’t to say that she’s not a show-stopper; merely that when she stops the show she’s not alone. The deliciously choreographed ‘You’re the Top’ with Billy (Tyran Parke) is absolute magic and makes the most of Parke’s silky smooth style; ‘Friendship’ with Moonface Martin (Nigel Godfrey) makes the most of Godfrey’s loose-limbed lunacy while her duet ‘Gypsy in Me’ with Lord Evelyn Oakley (Richard Neame) absolutely brings the house down.

Tyran Parke’s performance as Billy J Crocker, the Wall Street rookie, is fascinating. The ’30s produced the concept of the matinee idol and Parke doesn’t quite fit the bill. He’s no Valentino and he’s no Douglas Fairbanks Jr either but he’s a delightful leading man all the same. He sings up a storm, moves like a dream and his naiveté is truly touching so the fact that socialite Hope Harcourt (Delwynne Winter) falls for him is no surprise. What may come as a surprise however is the ease with which Parke holds the whole thing together. Very good work, this. Very good indeed. 

Richard Neame as Lord Evelyn Oakley, the upper class English twit really had me guessing. His actor choices seem to come from wide of left field and everything he does seems too big, too much, too often for the signals the text is sending. I was unconvinced to say the least. This may well just be rank bad acting I thought. Then came ‘the Gypsy in Me’, Lord Evelyn’s duet with Clarke, and all became clear, crystal clear. This is a performance of genius, one of considerable risk and all the pieces fall into place. I’d been suckered, and happily so. Neame’s is a rare talent; he exemplifies Porter’s vision for Anything Goes andhis performance is a true delight. Totally OTT but pitched perfectly. 

Delwynne Winter plays the ingénue role of Hope Harcourt and is sweetness personified. Porter loved writing his leading ladies but he wasn’t really that good at it and, in the case of Hope Harcourt, he doesn’t leave her much of a journey. She loves Billy when we first meet her and all she has to do is wait around until the mess unravels and Billy becomes hers as we all know he will. Despite Porter’s shortcoming Winter creates her own high points. She has a voice to match Clarke’s in power and range and her poignant solo ‘Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye’ lifts the character well above the ordinary.

The show is as full of treats as a chocolate box and Nigel Godfrey’s Moonface Martin is one of the best. He, along with Alexandra Foster’s Monroe-esque Erma Latour form a criminal double act to treasure.

As Elisha Whitney, veteran Ray Woolf is as charming and cultured as we know he will always be. Woolf is, without doubt, one of our great entertainers but this is a show for the youngsters and while he does everything right and absolutely nothing wrong the night belongs to the kids: they romp away with it and good luck to them. 

Left with a few final comments it should be noted that the sailor boys are totally delicious, delectable, and absolutely de-loverly,as is their singing and their dancing throughout.  

Lynn Webster (Evangeline Harcourt) has the best (and most!) frocks ever and wears them like a top catwalk model.

The tap numbers (choreographed by Justine de Kock) are total showstoppers and the ‘Buddy Beware’ white ballet with Erma Latour (Alexandra Foster) at her sexy best with all those sailor lads is a choreographed and costumed knockout.

Invisible in person but ever present in reality are Technical Director Nik Janiurek and his team of black-clad techno-ninjas. Great work, Nik! 

Did I enjoy my evening? I certainly did. Would I trade it for an ‘unpremeditated romp in the rice’ with ‘Prum Brossom’? I most certainly would not.  Well, not that I’d admit in public anyway. 

It’s escapist stuff and I must confess to not thinking about the recession once during the two hour-plus evening, and I heartily thank Auckland Music Theatre, Jackie Clarke and her chums for that. Just as New Yorkers probably did in 1934 when Cole Porter staged the original at the Alvin Theatre (now The Neil Simon) on Broadway, I took time out to engage in some absurdity before returning to today’s dramas of Wall Street and the downgrading of our own credit rating.

Some things never change because, ultimately, no matter how much we might want it to be otherwise, when it comes to the theatre (and it would seem Wall Street), Anything Goes.  
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