Even in the small Denis Arnold Hall of the Oxford Music Faculty, even during a warm-up fondly nicknamed ‘Hairspray Hell’, the cast for Anything Goes absolutely buzz with energy. Co-director Naomi Morris Omori explained that they wanted their cast to ‘show the diverse talent of Oxford’, and she delivers on this promise. It is a privilege to watch such obvious talent: the cast not only accomplish the classic triple-threat of singing, dancing and acting, but the clever addition of gymnastics makes even a snippet of the show border on the fantastical.
Despite being written in 1934, this musical presents palpably electric female characters thanks to the strong directorial vision of Annabel Reed and Naomi Morris Omori. A stunning rendition of Blow, Gabriel, Blow, in which a confident and magnetic Kathy Peacock as Reno, exemplifies the exceptional talent that Oxford offers. Peacock is not only an exceptional singer and dancer, but also a convinced actor who in a small set-less hall, and with only a piano and horn to accompany her, immediately absorbs the audience. Likewise, the consistently charismatic Indyana Schneider, has changed the previously ‘weepy’ Hope into a confident and powerful character. Schneider manages to pull off the difficult high pitch and forceful singing at the end of Blow, Gabriel, Blow whilst simultaneously achieving comic perfection. In fact, the performance of this song is worth the visit alone to watch this musical.
Tangible excitement exudes from all the crew and cast, and is thoroughly contagious.
Yet, amongst this strong female production, lead male characters are able to hold their own in a cast where every member is poised and captivating. The vitality of Toby Chapman’s performance in You’re the Top, alongside Kathy Peacock, shows the pair’s bewitching allure. Again, it is astonishing how good the acting is in this musical, let alone the well kept-up American accents. Humour pervades even the smallest element of this production, and every cast member not only feels important but contributes to the comedic delight – even in the smallest of details, like their expressions as they dance.
It is passion, however, which really will drive this musical. Tangible excitement exudes from all the crew and cast, and is thoroughly contagious. This is not just a must-see, but a must-delight, must-be-immersed, must-laugh.
Anything Goes is on from the 12th October to the 15th at the Oxford Playhouse.