Anything Goes, performed by the Cotswold Savoyards at Cheltenham Everyman

The Cotswold Savoyards in 'Anything Goes' at the Cheltenham Everyman

The Cotswold Savoyards in 'Anything Goes' at the Cheltenham Everyman - Credit: Archant

If you want to throw the most fantastic party ever, then here’s an idea. Ditch all your family and friends and invite the entire membership of the Cotswold Savoyards instead, says Katie Jarvis

Look, I’m backtracking on the standfirst (that headline, just above), already. Because admittedly, the party idea is a short-term plan, with complications you might have to sort while sporting a daisy of a hangover. But, sometimes, you just have to go with gut instinct.

Because, listen! What a great bunch the Cotswold Savoyards are! Even the stern captain - heavy with responsibility for a transatlantic liner where all passengers, and the crew-of-several, break out into song at difficult moments - was caught in the finale, tapping his toes and belting out You’re The Top with the rest of them.

And what a great musical Anything Goes really is. If this were Shakespeare, it would be As You Like It; a magical setting, where problems disappear like water evaporating from the ocean. The right couples fall in love (eventually). Even feisty Reno correctly has the hot knickers (an in-joke; if you don’t understand it, that’s your fault for not going) for Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, despite his sexual repression and his extreme thickness. And she does this without even asking for his bank-account details! (Though the title and the first-class liner ticket are possible clues.)

Anything Goes reminds you of the good old days. Of the days when you could exaggeratedly imitate a Chinese accent without fear or favour. (Not even the Duke of Edinburgh does that!) (At least, not that we know of.) (Not in public.)

Of the days when songs were beautifully constructed and lyrics were playfully, poetically, pithy.

Of the days when third-class passengers weren’t allowed to gamble. (Really? Ha! Always good when moral standards are in inverse proportions to fare paid.)

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So let’s set the scene. We’re on a transatlantic liner, bound from New York to Southampton (I assume), with a complicated set of passengers. Billy (Gary Lines) has just been sacked by Elisha J Whitney (David Roberts), though this is a frequent occurrence. Billy should leave the ship, as it sets sail on a journey long enough to cover some 3,000 miles and a dozen-or-so musical numbers. But he stays on board on discovering that the love of his life, Hope Harcourt (Rachel Prudden) is sailing with her fiancé Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Samuel J Taunton), who has a girl’s name.

Feisty Reno Sweeney (Hannah Boydell) also has her eye on Lord Evelyn, for reasons that clearly don’t involve wanting to do crosswords with a life-partner. There’s Hope’s mother, Mrs Evangeline Harcourt (Lesley Hendrie), with Lola the Shih Tzu (yes, a real dog – so adorable – belonging to director Sue Bennett, who added other adorable touches, too.) And then there were the crooks, Bonnie (Aimée Sullivan), and Moonface Martin (Paul Chesworth) whose deep disappointment at his low-ranking as Public Enemy #13 provides the sole element of tragedy.

And let’s not forget Reno’s gorgeous backing troupe of ‘angels’, along with the game chorus.

The emphasis of this production is fun. It was a first night – not everything went swimmingly, but no one fell into the briny. The singing had you toe-tapping (fab band, conducted by David Manifold), and the dancing (choreographed by Lisa Crowhurst) had you miming.

It’s hopeless trying to pick anyone out, but Hannah Boydell was sheer class; Aimée Sullivan was just fantastic. And I’ll eat my hat if Samuel J Taunton isn’t genuinely at least an earl; and Paul Chesworth a dealer on Cheltenham’s black markets, who carries out the occasional hit (but only for cash).

Great stuff, all.