REVIEW – ANYONE CAN WHISTLE – SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE

Anyone Can Whistle is absolutely bonkers, and such good fun! 

Credit: Danny with a Camera

Anyone Can Whistle is a musical by Stephen Sondheim (music/lyrics) and Arthur Laurents (book). Infamously, it’s Broadway run in 1964 starring Angela Lansbury closed after 12 previews and just 9 performances. And it has not been staged on a large scale since. 

This musical is set in an imaginary town which has gone bankrupt. Mayoress, Cora Hoover Hooper and her “boys”; Comptroller Schub, Treasurer Cooley, and Chief Magruder conspire to make money, by staging a “miracle” in the town, which will bring tourism. 

The town also has a mental institution, known as the “Cookie Jar”, the 49 inmates of which are known as “Cookies” and appear happier and healthier than the townspeople. 

The set uses traverse staging, which means that all the action happens with the audience surrounding the stage and performers. There aren’t many props used or set pieces, but the costumes are bright and colourful. 

Alex Young is incredible as mayoress Cora, her voice is sublime and her comedic timing and interactions with the audience are wonderful. There’s even a part of the show where she sits on an audience member’s lap! Jordan Broatch plays J Bowden Hapgood, and is exceptional in their professional debut, their voice is incredible! 

Credit: Danny with a Camera

Throughout the show there are interactions with the audience, and even some audience participation – you should only book the front row if you’re brave!

The reason this show hasn’t worked on the scale of other Sondheim classics, is due to the storyline and book. It’s bonkers, but I think director George Rankom has done an excellent job here of leaning into the ridiculousness and chaos. Making this show feels fresh and new, despite being written decades ago. 

It’s fun, ridiculous and a pure joy to watch! Go and see it! I think this show is probably like marmite to people, and I for one loved it! 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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