BWW Review: ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, March 24, 2016
With a plethora of musical theatre songwriters' compilation shows already in existence - where audiences can get Side By Side or even Put It Together with Sondheim, can have a Grand Night For Singing with Rodgers and Hammerstein or experience the Pure Imagination of Leslie Bricusse - it begs the question do we really need yet another revue featuring the work of a songwriting team? If that songwriting team is George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the answer is an emphatic "yes".
In the deft hands of the show's creator and director Simon Greiff, Anything Can Happen does a wonderful job of presenting songs from the Stiles and Drewe catalogue in a fresh and interesting manner. And what a diverse and wonderful catalogue of songs it is - including numbers from their West End musicals Mary Poppins, Betty Blue Eyes, Peter Pan, Three Little Pigs and the Olivier award-winning Honk! as well as lesser known gems such as Just So, Tutankahmun and Three Billy Goats Gruff, etc. - and from my personal favourite Stiles and Drewe show, Soho Cinders. In all of the songs presented, the quality of the craft of Stiles and Drewe's song-writing is revealed - crisp, clever Drewe lyrics which perfectly pin-point character and lush, catchy Stiles melodies that always delight the ear - none more so than the rich and soaring There's Always Tomorrow from Peter Pan, the gloriously melodic and lyrically beautiful Now I've Seen You from Honk! and the darkly haunting I Don't Need Glass Slippers from Soho Cinders.
But in this revue, literally anything can happen and the songs are given a new life - almost reinvented - by Greiff's innovative concept of linking otherwise unconnected songs together and/or using songs in a totally different context and fabricating them into a seamless musical and dramatic flow. Greiff's direction is always inventive, interesting and eye-catching while enhancing (but not distracting from) the text and vocal performance of the songs. (I particularly loved the idea of having soloists carrying books of the sources of shows from which certain songs originated - such as Mary Poppins, The Ugly Duckling, Cinderella, Peter Pan, etc.). And the visual and aural joys of the show are further enhanced by Grace Warner's delightful choreography and musical direction from Joe Hood.
In this production at Cardiff's Sherman Theatre's intimate studio space, strong and highly energised performances were delivered by each of the Royal Welsh School of Music & Drama students in the cast - Rosie Archer, Adena Cahill, Tom Corbishey, Dafydd Gape, Ross Hoey, Corey Jones, Ellie Pawsey, Jonathan Radford, Hannah Roper, Jennifer Ruth-Adams, Jordan Scott-Turner and Dafydd Weeks. There were a number of absolute knock-out moments - including Roper and Pawsey's performance of the Soho Cinders showstopper, "I'm So Over Men"; some great comic rapping from Billy Goats Gruff's "Big, Middle And Baby" - Gape, Scott-Turner and Jones; a genuine star quality rendition by Radford of "I Wish, I Wish" (a gem of a song cut from Soho Cinders) and a glorious vocal performance of "There's Always Tomorrow" by Radford, Hoey and the Company.
Hopefully Anything Can Happen will go on from here to have a future life (the show would not look out of place on any Off West End or even West End stage). It is clearly a "work in progress" and no doubt there will be changes made that will make it even better - maybe some fine-tuning in places in the second act and the possible inclusion of songs from Stiles and Drewe's more recent shows. But even as it is now - it's Practically Perfect.