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February 29 2020, Reviews The David Beach Competition

Anything Goes

Argyle Productions @ North Curry

North Curry Village Hall

North Curry

Thursday 19th February 2020

If you want to get a feel for the true grass roots of amateur musical theatre with all it’s fun, enthusiasm and passion you need look no further than North Curry. The venue is small and unprepossessing, tucked away in a small village, far from the glittering lights of the West End or Broadway but the shows they deliver are full of sparkle, glitz and pizazz.

Director Greg Philips and his wife Susan have brought their passion for musical theatre to this local community theatre. Their inexhaustible drive, enthusiasm and belief seems to know no bounds. They have picked up and shaken local performers with hugely varying degrees of theatrical experience and by hook or by crook delivered full scale musical theatre productions. It is one thing, as a director, to walk into an established society, complete with costume people, lighting people, sound people, set builders, painters and hundreds of talented performers but quite another to start from scratch. My hat is off to Greg and Sue as they keep the tradition of amateur musical theatre alive: by the community, for the community.

This year’s show was a slightly modernised version of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, a great ‘standard’ in the amateur world, full of well-known tunes and particularly in the version chosen, snappy, funny and pacey. First impressions, on entering the auditorium were great. The ‘wow factor’ was immediately apparent: the stage, emulating the prow and deck of an ocean liner looked terrific. Bright, white and edged with strips of crisp LED lights, ropes, rivets, life belts, deco decoration and bulk-head doors set the scene immediately and impressively. The hall has no ‘wings’ to its stage so it had been necessary to create these with panels and screens.

The show moved along nicely. Costumes looked great and performances were enthusiastic and watchable. Singing was of a good order, coping well with the recorded backing tracks. There were a couple of stand-out performers for me: Poppy Elliott as Reno showed some real class in song, dance and acting – Its always impressive to see the true ‘triple threat’ and John Penelhum as Moonface could not be ignored. He has excellent comic timing, great characterisation and a natural engagement with the audience. Other players added to the fun: Ben Malone as Billy showed quality; John Hembrow did some good character work as Elisha Witney; Tim Richards brought the bumbling Lord Evelyn Oakley amusingly to life and Phoebe Swinson looked great as Hope Harcourt. The ensemble and supporting players hardly missed a beat and the dance element, thanks to new Choreographer Karen Kral pleasingly featuring some lovely tap, worked pretty well too.

I enjoyed my evening in North Curry- watching a group of people working hard to deliver their very best is always a pleasure.  I couldn’t help wondering, though, if the flow of the show might have been improved by a degree of design simplification – fewer substantial scene changes (perhaps simply suggesting a scene rather than fully creating a set) thus avoiding the slightly ‘clunky’ interruptions throughout?

There were, however so many lovely ‘touches’ like the Saxophonist and the Accordion, the daftness of the Chinese lads rescuing the dog, the ship’s horn prior to departure amongst many others, which combined with a warmth emanating from the cast that almost everything could be forgiven.

I drove home singing Blow Gabriel, Blow and haven’t been able to shake that earworm out of my head since.

Thanks for Inviting me

 Ian