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 A curious piece that explores power, fascism and the othering of minorities via a curious interplay of an outdated mockery of mental illness, and an implausible melee of manufactured miracles.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