The annual DULOG Gala Production is back and filled with more enthusiasm than ever. The hours of commitment this show takes is immense, and with a budget as big as you can get in student theatre, I had huge expectations. On the whole, the quality of the performing in ‘Anything Goes’ was incredible; the sleek choreography, and luscious harmonies were worthy of a west end stage. At times, the production value was let down by minor but recurring tech errors, but the show overall was fantastic.
The directing team of Emily Phillips, assisted by Emilia Lewis, excelled in their ambitious and robust creative vision. The stage was utilised to its full extent and the wonderfully apt reactions of all the performers meant there were many moments of humour, and the audience had plenty of laughs. It was evident to me that so much work had been put into every element of the production, the set was thought-provoking, and the moments of humour that the script yearned for were embraced throughout: there was never a dull moment. Although at times, it felt like transitions overly relied on underscoring from the band, which while enjoyable, became predictable, and I would have loved to see more variation of stage entrances/exits. In part, it felt like the creative intent was led down by execution. However, I feel the directors must be commended for bringing such innovative and humorous ideas to this challenging production.
The musicality of all the cast was spectacular – I have never seen so many triple threats on one stage. Musical Directors Daniel Hicks and Freya Hartley deserve the highest praise: the singing was flawless, and not enough credit can go to the band for providing such consistency with such a demanding score, making them the best part of the entire production. The vocals were beautiful, and all performers seemed confident delivering such challenging harmonies, even if their microphones occasionally faulted. The choreography, devised by Rhyen Hunt, was one of the most impressive features; it was breath-taking watching highly intricate lifts on stage, and for the most part the cast managed to pull these off with ease. Sometimes, there was the minor slip up, or lack of synchronicity, but this didn’t detract from the flow of the show.
All the cast deserve enormous credit for pulling off such a high standard show. Xanthe Gibson, playing Reno Sweeny, was the most incredible leading lady, with buckets of charisma and talent, meaning she equally shone in all disciplines. I especially loved her peformance of ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’, a beautifully staged number, where her vocals shone and the lighting design wonderfully enhanced the energetic dancing. It must be said that Anoushka Pluwak (Evangeline Harcourt) is an astonishing talent going on as an understudy in such a renowned production: I honestly could not tell, she was remarkable. Equally, Matthew Bourne (Billy Crocker) and Jo Price (Evelyn Oakley) provided astonishing stamina to complement Gibson’s performance, bringing stellar vocals and polished dancing worthy of praise. I couldn’t get enough of Charlotte Dixon’s (Hope Harcourt) sweet yet powerful voice, and she shone as an authentic actress throughout both acts. George Cass (Ship’s Captain) and Lengana Mashaphu (Elisha Whitney) were other standouts, who especially shone in their solo moments. Similarly, the magnetic duo of Damola Amusa (Moonface Martin) and Eleanor Sumner (Erma Latour) were a treat to witness, and I was impressed by both their stamina and humour throughout. The sailors were another highlight, with the group having wonderful chemistry, and the quality of their dancing was brilliant. The ensemble was a well-oiled machine for the most part, and it really felt like they were working as a team.
With such great resources I was excited to see the set and lighting design for the production. The set was fantastic in its level of professional detail, but in some scenes, it was evident the actors had not yet adjusted to working with such an elaborate set. Likewise, aiming for such intricacy with the set design sometimes acted as a downfall for the transitions, as at times the lights came up with stagehands still on stage. While this was not a massive issue, it did interrupt a few entrances, but this might be more an issue for the first night. My greatest concern was with the general pace of lighting and sound cues, as far too often performers were in the dark during pivotal moments of dialogue, which resulted in some moments of confusion for the audience. However, the tech design overall was impressive, the variation of colours and sounds were greatly appreciated, and utilisation of the spotlight and gobo effects really enhanced the performance, it is just a shame that some of these wonderful designs struggled with execution. Microphones were temperamental, and while fixed swiftly, it seemed to impact some of the performances. That being said, the costumes were delightful, and added an element of professionalism to the show.
I left the Gala feeling blown away by the performances given, but slightly disappointed in the execution of the creative elements. Although, the performing alone is something not to miss, and I am sure that as the performances go on, the minor errors will become no more. All in all, it was an expectational show, that is a must see for all musical theatre lovers!