Anyone Can Whistle has always been Stephen Sondheims’ show, for all his other dazzling critically-acclaimed successes, that has never truly reached the same heights as Follies, Company and Into The Woods. After the original production only lasted nine performances on Broadway in 1965, Georgie Rankcomb’s production at the Southwark Playhouse is the first major revival of Anyone Can Whistle after Sondheim's death last year.
The story follows the corrupt mayoress of the small town Cora Hoover Hooper, played triumphantly by Alex Young, and her quest to boost the town's finances through a deceitful tourist attraction, alongside following the inhabitants of the local mental health asylum - dubbed the Cookie Jar. Whilst these ideas may have seemed radical in 1964, they fall slightly flat in the present. The moments of brilliance, during the production, come when the show jumps entirely into the musical bizarreness of the story, and the riotously talented cast (Chrystine Symone, Jordan Broatch, Danny Lane, Samuel Clifford, Renan Teodoro, Nathan Taylor, Kathryn Akin, Marisha Morgan, Teddy Hinde, Hana Ichijo, Shane Convery, Jensen Tudtud,) all deserve plaudits - their energy infectious and talent clear throughout.
There’s no avoiding the fact that the script - by Arthur Laurents - is often confusing, poorly written and arguably the reason the original Broadway production didn’t become a success. Under the direction of Rankcomb, however, Anyone Can Whistle is a celebration of uniqueness; where every person can be merrilly acknowledged, irrespective of size, race, gender or illness. That being said, despite the strong direction and joyously energetic performances, in a production where inclusivity is at it’s absolute core, the xenophobic depiction of a garlic wearing, baguette wielding frenchman jars, and as a result the piece loses credibility in it’s key message.
Anyone Can Whistle runs at The Southwark Playhouse until the 7th of May and
Photo by Danny With A Camera