By Amy Price
Once a year, DULOG promises us everything with its Gala Show. Tonight it delivered.
Maybe not a musical for those who just aren’t ‘musical people’, Anything Goes is full of tap routines, harmonies, costume changes, one liners and even a few dancing sailors. But for those who are ‘musical people’, or even those who just enjoy watching a group of exceptionally talent Durham Students show off what they’ve got on a stage, then I really recommend you go see this show at some point before Saturday.
Okay. Some things weren’t quite right. The slightly dodgy microphone sound levels marred the otherwise flawless tech, leaving the audience slightly frustrated at times that they could not quite hear the words of each song, or would miss the start of a sentence. Similarly, there were a few tense moments where costumes became a bit risqué in the bright lighting/ complicated dance routines. I’d also maybe suggest that the band start playing the opening instrumental music before the lights go down, as it felt like the audience were sitting in anticipation of the start for a long time.
However, these tiny details definitely did not spoil my over-all enjoyment of the show.
The first thing I was struck by was the impressive set, which was effective at portraying the ship-setting, and also leant the production a number of dynamic performance spaces. The stage team used the flown-in scenery well, with festoons of lights, bunting and chandeliers suspended above the performers.
Indeed, it was the set that underlined the capabilities that the Gala Theatre offers productions, and so highlighted how director Ros Bell has made the most of what the venue offered her.
Despite the earlier criticism, it must be said the band was incredible, and it was a delight to see how musical director Jack Moreton conducted them with such panache. The catchy tunes added to the atmosphere of the show, and the consistency with which they were performed made the audience feel very ‘safe’ with each musical number.
Similarly, the tech. crew (led by Jonny Browning) cannot be maligned, given how professionally the spotlights, the star cloth and the sound bites (to name a few) were used. The design was sophisticated, and appropriate to the mood on-stage.
Then there was the cast.
Reno, performed by Sorrell Brown, made a spectacular DULOG debut. Whilst she seemed slightly uncertain in her first appearance on stage, she was fully warmed up by the second song and infused the role with all the attitude that it demands. Even more impressive were the jazzy tone to her singing voice and the way Sorrell managed to sing near-perfectly whilst tap dancing and being lifted into the air. Reno’s Angels were similarly talented, with special mention going to Jennifer Bullock’s especially energetic performance.
Billy, performed by Russell Lamb, was equally notable. Good comic timing, and a combination of smooth American accent, smooth singing and smooth dancing, meant his character was very well conveyed; even when he was hitting some remarkably high notes.
Elissa Churchill as Hope was elegant in every way (with some gorgeous costumes put together by the wardrobe team, and equally impressive hair & make up), whilst Moonface and Erma (Callum Kenny and Sarah Slimani) made a glorious comedy double-act, effortless in their complete commitment to their roles. First Year Charlie Keable was similarly hilarious as Evelyn; he made a very convincing English aristocrat, and was fearless at embracing his foolishness in his rendition of ‘The Gypsy in Me’.
On this note, Ellis-Ann Dunmall’s choreography needs to be mentioned. From the comedy ‘Gypsy in Me’ routine, to the clever sailor-surf move performed in Erma’s ‘Buddie Beware’, to the complexity of the ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’, her dance routines had real style. Admittedly, they weren’t always performed to their full potential (sorry Sailor Quartet…), but it was these routines that leant the show the momentum which was so crucial to its success. Jennifer Bullock also deserves another mention here for her extraordinarily ambitious choreography in ‘Anything Goes’. It was the perfect conclusion to the first Act, and the whole cast did it justice with synchronisation that was the stuff of the West End.
I can only hope that everyone in the show can repeat this performance throughout the week, and maybe even improve upon the slight imperfections that were present tonight. If they can, then I’d say the show will be nigh on flawless.
Photograph: Emma Bulit-Werner