Frivolous as musical theatre might be to many, the St Andrews musical theatre scene has in recent years leant towards edgier, modern pieces, such as Rent, Urinetown, and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It was therefore somewhat of a novelty when I sat down with the director of the Just So Society’s new take on Anything Goes, to hear her describe the production as “irrelevant, fun and escapist”.
This is Marcella Denby’s first time as a director, and despite calling the process “nerve-racking”, the confidence and positivity she emanates gives me little doubt that she has been an able and likeable director. Although the quintessential ‘30s Cole Porter musical contains many numbers which have become standards (‘I Get a Kick Out of You’ and ‘Blow, Gabriel, Blow’ are my personal favourite morning-shower-belters) Denby had never heard of the musical until about six months ago, when some friends suggested it as one which she may enjoy directing. She admits that taking on the show has been a bigger challenge than she had originally expected: there was an ensemble cast of 23 to be coordinated, multiple complex dance and tap sequences to be choreographed, and lots of harmonies to be taught. Denby says the relatively smooth rehearsal process has been down to solid teamwork, high communication levels and an amazing crew, headed by her “incredible” producer – St Andrews’s organisational stalwart Caroline McWilliams.
Denby also has high praise for her cast. She commends their commitment and says that the high level of experience and professionalism which they brought to the show has made the process all the easier. She believes including everyone in the show from the beginning has helped establish trust, especially amongst the chorus, without whom she says, “there literally wouldn’t be a show at all”.
When asked about how the show has dated, Denby is a little more cautious. She has apparently altered some of the (frankly racist) elements of the 83-year-old musical, but in terms of the politics and presentation of gender roles she admits the show is outdated. However, she believes this does not diminish from the fun night at the theatre that she hopes to offer, and that the show should be approached with a sense of humour.
“It’s just good fun,” she beamed, in summarising the show. “And the best thing is, it’s given me a chance to say, ‘anything goes’ in response to almost anything!”
Anything Goes is going up 7-9th November in the Stage at the Union for £7.
Facebook event/ticket info: https://www.facebook.com/anythinggoes789/