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25 January 2012


Anything Goes
Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch
Wednesday 25th January 2012

This was my first visit to the Queen's Theatre, and after a shaky start (the Box Office clerk was on her phone throughout my transaction), it was a very enjoyable one.

The band opened with a superb and energetic Overture, and maintained an extremely high standard throughout.

The large, impressive set of the SS America proved it's worth, with some ingenious hidden sections that were pulled out variously to reveal a fully furnished first class cabin, a sparse third class cabin and a ship's jail cell.  Unfortunately the ship's second level was a little too high for the stage, making the upper space difficult to light.  There was some questionable follow-spotting too, especially in the opening scene.  All the costumes were well chosen for the period and characters, never an easy job for an amateur group of varying shapes and sizes.

Reno Sweeney (Gemma Nye) was strongly played, drawing attention each moment she walked on stage, even if her hands defaulted to her hips slightly too often.  I thought her especially good in the title number, tapping us into the interval, and she looked fantastic in her red dress for "Blow Gabriel, Blow".  She seemed to lack confidence when stretching her upper vocal range, as her projection weakened, but she was generally on the money and could have belted those notes to really instil the impact of her excellent performance.

James Sinclair as Billy danced gracefully, and although his voice didn't quite fit the variety of the role, which was especially prevalent during the fairly high "Easy to Love", when singing close to his comfort zone in "You're the Top" his depth was very pleasant.  He was full of energy and conveyed his character with easy charm.

The costume team outdid themselves with Hope Harcourt (Hannah Matthews-Jones), who looked effortlessly beautiful in each of her many changes.  Her voice was not quite as developmed as some of the other leads, but her dance scene with Billy in "It's De-Lovely" was elegantly appealing.

Moonface Martin (Bill Jaycock) was wonderful as the loveable "Public Enemy #13", his gravelly voice suiting the character perfectly, and being well maintained throughout.  His "Be Like the Bluebird" number from the ship's jail was a charismatic highlight.

Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Rick McGeough) was well played for laughs, even if his high-class accent sounded slightly too Essex-based.  The audience loved "The Gypsy in Me", where the most was very much made of this peach of a part.

Other worthy mentions must go to the wonderfully played Elisha J Whitney (David Cormack), bumbling around after his stolen glasses, and Maria Coston as Mrs Harcourt with her brave handling of a real dog, who was impeccably behaved. 

The groups real strength was in the chorus numbers, which were solidly sung and staged, without exception.   “Blow Gabriel, Blow” and “Anything Goes” being particular stand outs, as well as the crew doing a lovely job with “There’ll Always Be a Lady Fair”. 

Every single cast member conveyed the feeling that they were having a jolly good time, which is a sure fire way to leave your audience feeling just the same.

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