Thursday 7 April 2022

Anyone Can Whistle - Review

Southwark Playhouse,, London


Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by Georgie Rankcom

Alex Young and company

Anyone Can Whistle is one of Sondheim's lesser known works and probably, rightly so. A curious piece that explores power, fascism and the othering of minorities via a curious interplay of an outdated mockery of mental illness, and an implausible melee of manufactured miracles. It all makes for an occasionally tedious 2 1/2 hours at Southwark Playhouse, interspersed by musical numbers that too often err towards corn rather than Sondheim's signature scalpel-like satire.

For a story this whimsical, a show’s company needs excellence throughout to carry the piece and disappointingly, for the most part, this cast lack the required emotional heft. And as the on-stage talent level wanes, so too does the audience's attention.

That being said, there are two standout performances from Alex Young and Chrystine Symone. Young captures wit, timing and a magnificent presence – with just a soupcon of channelled Hillary Clinton - as Cora, the town's corrupt and devious Mayoress. Young’s musical theatre genius sets her apart amongst her generation and in this production her take on A Parade In Town marks her out as a future Dolly Levi – one can only imagine, blissfully, what she could do with Before The Parade Passes By. 

As Nurse Apple, Symone is offered a more challenging role of obscure complexities. Vocally she is magnificent, never better than in her outstanding interpretation of There Won’t Be Trumpets. It is only a shame that in the musical’s exploration of the nascent love between her and Jordan Broatch’s Hapgood, that their performance falls short of Symone’s magnificence. 

Above the stage, Natalie Pound's 5-piece band make fine work of this rarely heard score.

Runs until 7th May
Photo credit: Danny With A Camera

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