A valiant effort on a Broadway flop.
Although Stephen Sondheim's name is a familiar one among theater enthusiasts, his musical "Anyone Can Whistle'' may be lesser known. The JEMS Theatre's (formerly the West Boylston Community Theater) decision to perform this production was a risky one; after all, the show only ran nine times when it debuted on Broadway 50 years ago. Despite its unpopularity, the JEMS Theatre manages to make "Anyone Can Whistle'' a charming experience.
The audience is taken to an old Western town, beset with bankruptcy. Due to their misfortunes, the Mayoress Cora Hoover Hooper, whose cheeky personality is portrayed by the talented Sally Holden, is despised by nearly every local citizen. That is, with the exception of the impudent Comptroller Schub (played by Ed Savage), Treasurer Cooley (Anthony Huntington), and Chief of Police Magruder (Gary Swanson). Together, the four attempt to win back the town's love by presenting them with a miracle: water.
As the townsfolk line up to get a taste of the gift from God, the patients from the local insane asylum get mixed within the crowd. Without the help of the fierce Nurse Fay Apple, played by the lovely Lydian DeVere Yard, the patients are indistinguishable from the "normal'' people--exactly as Fay likes it. Newcomer Dr. Hapgood, whose endearing energy and quick wit is captured by Todd Yard, attempts to right the situation, only managing to make it so much worse.
"Anyone Can Whistle'' is rather like a homemade sweater: It's cute, but woven together rather messily. This is in no way the actors' fault, or the crew's; in fact, they are what keep the sweater from unraveling. It's simply a flop from Sondheim's early days.
Despite its shortcomings, the show is still filled with enthusiasm and talent, especially vocally. I'd love to see the same cast and crew again--just in another musical.
Raelyn Silvester is a sophomore at Clinton High School who participated in the Unum Student Critique Program, an educational theater review program supported locally by the Hanover Theatre, the Telegram and the Worcester Arts Council.