Review: Anything Goes

MUSICAL: The cast of Basics Junior Theatre School's latest production, "Any Goes". (S)
MUSICAL: The cast of Basics Junior Theatre School's latest production, "Any Goes". (S)

An 80-year-old romantic musical presented by a group of lively teenagers could be a match made in hell rather than heaven.

But “Anything Goes” is a musical comedy triumph from the teenagers of Basics Junior Theatre Group this week.

It has been revamped, rejuvenated and is fresh, current and hugely comical and entertaining; and if you don’t go along to Colne Hippodrome Theatre to see it you are missing out on a real Christmas treat.

I left the theatre tapping my feet and in great spirits after the opening night of this show on Tuesday, despite it being cold, dark, wet and wild outside.

Inside it was hot, hot, hot as the cast of 12 to 19 year olds brought Cole Porter’s fabulous musical score alive. And it was definitely worth braving the elements to be transported aboard ship on a liner packed with con men, crazy crew members, debutantes, an eccentric lord, and some vampish ladies. Belying their years, the Basics young people brought all these characters to life fabulously as they sang, danced and acted their way seamlessly through the show.

It is difficult to believe that this is not being presented by experienced adults, for there are some very mature performances from the principals while the other young cast members put 100% fun and energy into their portrayals.

It was an emotional night for the Basics team, coming just days after the death of the group’s founder Dennis Murtaugh, who would have been occupying one of the seats later in the week. But the cast paid him the greatest tribute by making sure that the show went on ... and in some style!

“Yes, it was a tribute to Dennis tonight and everyone has been wonderful,” said Basics principal Andy Cooke.

Walking into the theatre foyer on Tuesday we found the cast in costume mingling with the audience, and completely in character. It was a great touch from director Richard Sanderson who has performed in “Anything Goes” himself and obviously loves it.

This show could not be more different than last year’s emotionally charged “Miss Saigon” but Basics boys and girls are nothing if not versatile.

Richard’s aim to make an old story completely current succeeded and I hope the public fill up the empty seats this week and for Saturday’s matinee performance for which there are plenty.

Once inside the auditorium the cast are visible on stage until “curtain up” which is very much a surprise in itself. The ocean liner set is a triumph and the very few scene changes needed are done so swiftly and discreetly there is no distraction.

The only minor opening night distraction was the excellent orchestra sometimes drowning out the dialogue, and the over enthusiastic audience sometimes doing the same. I’m sure this was designed to spur on the cast on stage, but they needed little encouragement. From the leading lady and star of the show Jess Balderstone as principal girl Reno Sweeney, to the smallest chorus part, everyone played their part.

This is a typical boy meets girl story, played out aboard ship, and of course we have lots of twists and turns until the right boys meet the right girls.

En route we have some great chorus numbers and boy can they tap dance. Jess leads the group in the “Anything Goes” routine, along with a fabulous version of “Blow Gabriel Blow” and “The Gypsy in Me” duet – all brilliantly done. It is worth seeing the whole show just for these numbers.

Jess is a great young actress, dancer and singer whose class stands out. She was sexy, sassy and so well cast as the glamorous nightclub singer. Having reached the grand old age of 19, however, this is her swansong for Basics as she has to say farewell to the junior group. But I’m sure she has a glittering career on the stage ahead of her.

Also appearing in their final show are the excellent Jack Herbert who takes the part of the eccentric Lord Evelyn Oakleigh to his heart and makes it a comedy joy. While the smitten young beau Billy Crocker, who gets up to all sorts of mischief to win the heart of spoken-for debutante Hope Harcourt, is also winningly played by the superb Jake Simpson, who has a great voice and is a pretty nifty dancer. Hope is played by Karen Wilkinson who has a winning way and is another young lady who can really sing. There are lots of other talented young people in this musical, sadly too many to mention, and it is great to see them taking on comedy roles so well that the audience were laughing out loud throughout.

It runs until Saturday with an afternoon matinee. Call the box office on 863210.