West Wickham Operatic Society (WWOS) are returning to the Churchill Theatre this week with their spring production: 1934 musical Anything Goes. The company bring biannual shows to the theatre and were last at the Churchill in October 2018 with their production of Sondheim’s Follies, writes Holly O’Mahony…

This is not the first time the company have taken on Anything Goes. “WWOS last presented Anything Goes at the Churchill in May 1999, exactly 20 years ago, so we felt it was the right time to return to this classic ‘boy meets girl’ story,” says Kevin Gauntlett, artistic director of WWOS.

The story takes place on an ocean liner travelling from New York to London. On board is Billy Crocker, a stowaway in love with passenger and heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. With the help of nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and ‘Moonface’ Martin, Billy does what he can to win Hope’s love.

Among the things Kevin loves most about Anything Goes – a show he describes as a “hilarious shipboard romance” – is its funny script and wide-sweeping array of characters. “There’s an ancient short-sighted American banker, star-crossed lovers, an English Lord, an all-singing, all-dancing evangelist nightclub singer and an infamous gangster disguised as a priest,” he chuckles.

WWOS was founded over 80 years ago in 1935. During their first 25 years as a company, their repertoire was drawn solely from Gilbert and Sullivan, and English musical comedy, but in 1961 the musical comedy element was replaced by classical European operetta, with modern musicals eventually joining the mix in 1986. Today, the company has an acting membership of approximately 75, and produces a musical production each spring and autumn at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley.

Now old hands at making it all come together, the rehearsal process for Anything Goes has been smooth, according to Kevin. “We will be presenting Anything Goes with a full 12-piece jazz band on stage,” says Kevin. “They will be raised above the stage on top of the ship looking down on the show. We are just hoping the band fit on top of the ship,” he laughs.

Anything Goes is on at the Churchill Theatre, High Street, Bromley BR1 1HA. May 21 – May 25, at 7:30pm, and additionally at 2:30pm on Thursday 23 and Saturday 25. Admission: £23/concessions available.

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