Anyone can whistle, a weird musical fable, a satire on corrupt administrations, can only be recommended to Stephen Sondheim fans and maybe not even to them. It premiered in New York in 1964 with a cast led by Angela Lansbury and Lee Remick.
The musical, which has had a string of road disasters including a death and a brawl, opened on Broadway to horrible reviews and closed after just nine performances. The original line-up cut an album that became a cult favorite.
Since then there have been occasional appearances. People always said the show was ahead of its time. The truth is that Arthur Laurents’ book was deeply flawed and despite some fiddling, the book is still deeply flawed.
It takes a miracle to save a small American town from bankruptcy. A councilman comes up with the idea of faking a miracle to attract crowds of pilgrims and rake in the money. The city will be America’s answer to Lourdes.
A nurse from the local mental institution (dubbed the Cookie Jar) brings in patients to test (or uncover?) the miracle, and they get mistaken for the ordinary pilgrims. Nobody knows who’s sane and who’s crazy.
Satire is never funny enough. The love interest is not believable. Some of the lyrics are skillful if you can hear them. The record is disappointing. Only three songs stand out: “A Parade in Town”, “Come Play with Me” and “Anyone Can Whistle”.
Three performances stand out. Alex Young as the mayor for sale, Christine Symone as the sexy nurse and Danny Lane as the burly councilman.
Loud production by Georgie Rankcom and uninspired choreography by Lisa Stevens are severely constrained by an extremely narrow transverse stage.
Traverse productions are tricky, but they can work in the right hands. Southwark had a great success with the Grand Hotel musical on a Traverse stage.
Robert Tanitch reviews Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle at the Southwark Playhouse, London
Source link Robert Tanitch reviews Stephen Sondheim’s Anyone Can Whistle at the Southwark Playhouse, London