All aboard the SS American for a joyful transatlantic journey

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Ship ahoy! Innerleithen Opera’s production of Anything Goes has set sail from the Library Hall and if Monday’s opening night was anything to go by, it’s in shipshape condition!

Anything Goes is of an earlier generation of 1930s screwball Broadway musical comedy. Set aboard a transatlantic passenger liner, the show is full of madcap antics and an overboard plot.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen. Sailors.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen. Sailors.

It tells the tale of Reno Sweeney (feisty, irresistible Nicola Watt), an evangelist turned nightclub singer and Billy Crocker (the dashing Craig Rendle) each on their own personal cruise towards true love.

The songs, originally written for the likes of Ethel Merman, are perfectly suited to Watt’s voice and she is able to belt them out as well as deliver the more reflective numbers with equal panache.

Rendle is a newcomer to a principal role and this is a tour de force for him, with singing, dancing and umpteen disguises to contend with; all of which he delivers with aplomb. Billy’s love is debutant Hope Harcourt, played by another newcomer, Niamh Smith.

Niamh has a beautifully sweet and clear voice and her songs are well executed.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen. Hope and Billy.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen. Hope and Billy.

Hope is engaged to be married to the Bertie Wooster-like English gent, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, played by a hilarious John Armstrong.

John is returning to this role after 18 years, but with no diminished amount of comic pomposity.

Douglas Russell and Claire Bell excel as Moonface Martin (Public Enemy #13) and gangster’s moll, Bonnie. Claire leads some of the show’s big dance numbers and proves she can sing and dance in equal measure. Russell is hilarious as the hapless gangster and his solo brings the house down!

Reno’s backing group, The Angels (Rachel Campbell, Rachael Cox, Rosie Graham, Ellie Hope and Gillian Rendle), bring classy sex appeal to many of the numbers and their dancing is superb.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen.

The show’s mix of tangled improbabilities, mismatched romances and minor celebrity gangsters is carried along by the most effervescent of musical scores by Cole Porter, full of songs that are in turn romantic and ravishing, sardonic and sassy. These include the title song, I Get a Kick Out of You, Friendship, Blow Gabriel Blow and many more that audiences were humming to themselves as they left the hall on Monday.

There are a number of smaller roles which help carry the story and combine to make the show a real hit.

Take a bow: Elisha J. Whitney (David Brown), Reporter (Leanne Young), Cameraman (Roger Brydon), Mrs Wadsworth T. Harcourt (Shirley Bean), Bishop Henry T. Dobson (Stewart Wilson) Ching (Tom Mills), Ling (Helen Gault), Captain (Garry Millie), Purser (Billy Rooney) and Steward (Colin Tweedie).

The de-lovely, de-lightful, de-lectable chorus of passengers and crew are the tops and spread an infectious pleasure throughout, particularly when they mass ranks for such set-pieces as the finale to Act One of the title song, which choreographer Anne Anderson has cleverly turned into a spectacular tap routine.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen.

At the ship’s helm is producer Brian McGlasson, who brought many creative touches to the show, including a simple, yet effective set that made the most of the fantastic lighting plot. Music was under the direction of Julie Leavett for the first time this year and the Society benefitted greatly from her vocal coaching over the winter months in the Library Hall. The orchestra was, once again, under the expert direction of John Howden. Stage manager Christopher Wilson also ran a tight ship and his own (stage) crew ensured slick and seamless changes.

There are still tickets left for the remaining performances (Thursday, Friday at 7.30pm; Saturday at 2.15pm and 7.30pm). Pay at the door or ring 0845 224 1908.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen.

Production of Anything Goes at The Memorial Hall, Innerleithen.