Anyone Can Whistle ★★★★ Southwark Playhouse | Apr 1 - May 7, 2022


In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky explained how the powers of "miracle, mystery and authority" can be used to enslave people. Stephen Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle is a comic fable exploring that dark observation. The seldom performed work lacks the subtle character development and dry wit that informs much of Sondheim's oeuvre. It paints the dangers of conformity and the oppressive realities of politics and religion in very broad strokes. The story shows how reason itself, and even apparent caring, can be used to undermine the celebration of the real miracle which is life in all its variety. The cast of this production do a fine job of presenting Sondheim's rather slight, cautionary tale. Director, Georgie Rankcom, sets a pace that is astounding and Lisa Stevens' choreography is inspired. Indeed, the energy is quite infectious. Alex Young as the meanie mayor, Cora Hoover Hooper, is wonderfully over the top, and she steals the show whenever she appears on stage. Chrystine Symone as Nurse Fay Apple does a simply splendid rendition of the title song and her pairing with Jordan Broatch who plays J. Bowden Hapgood works beautifully. Danny Lane, Samuel Clifford and Renan Teodoro are all delightfully comic as the three bureaucrats who support the corrupt mayor and stage the miracle that brings a needed source of revenue to the town. The fact that there were no visual indicators when the cast were representing the townspeople or depicting the "Cookies" could cause some confusion, but the enormous enthusiasm of the crew carries the day. Anyone Can Whistle hints at the amazing masterpieces that are to come, and the present version brings out the best in this early work which has achieved a cult-like following. Here's a terrific production that finds all the wonderful joy in Sondheim's strikingly relevant parable.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Danny With a Camera.

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