With Anything Goes playing in Manchester, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Olivier Award-winning actress who plays the much-loved Erma, Carly Mercedes Dyer.
Alongside Dyer is an impressive cast, lead by Kerry Ellis, with Denis Lawson, Simon Callow CBE, Bonnie Langord, and a wide ensemble of characters all contributing to keep this beloved production alive and well. The talented team were recognised at this year’s Olivier Awards, receiving a total of 9 nominations – though losing most of them to fellow revival, Cabaret.
Dyer was amongst the Olivier nominees for ‘Best Actress in Supporting Role in a Musical’. She shared passionately about her nomination and recalled her initial disbelief: “This is madness! I was walking through Regents Park, and my phone was lighting up, and I couldn’t believe it”. Though Dyer did not win the Olivier, she seemed equally as pleased to be nominated: “It baffled me, and obviously I’m still able to come back to do the show”.
The positive reaction to Dyer’s performance is unsurprising; she took to her role naturally: “I don’t actually have to try that hard”. She explained it was easy to get into the character as both of them share a “quick wit”, which she credits her mum for giving her.
When asked about her favourite element of Erma, she struggled to decide and couldn’t choose just one. Dyer was enthused by the character’s costumes, praising Jon Morell for the costume design. She also liked that the essential part of Erma is that “there’s nothing quiet about her”. She said Erma “knows who she is as a woman. She’s the one in control,” and she likes that she’s a “woman’s woman”, which is another trait they have in common.
Erma’s Jersey accent is noticeably different from Dyer’s London accent. When asked how she found the voice of Erma, she said she “never shies away from a challenge” and managed to nail it with the help of vocal training. In rehearsal, she would often use a “a really far away, comical accent” and be told to “reign it in” by the crew.
Dyer described Anything Goes as “the gift that keeps on giving; I love everything about it”. It seems the cast have equally as much fun performing as audiences do watching. When asked about the cast, Dyer described them as a “riot” and said that the entire production was “just so much fun”. She stressed the importance of a good team: “It makes all the difference”, and they helped “bring her back down to earth”.
Aside from Anything Goes, Dyer has been in a lot of impressive shows and found it difficult to decide which one has impacted her the most, but said she enjoyed her roles in both Anything Goes and Gypsy: “You can’t begin to imagine the talent of the people”, she said. “I was soaking everything up so much to learn everything”.
Asked about her future roles, Dyer said she would like to play many different characters: “I don’t want anyone to put me in a box […] I always like to surprise”. She said she’d like to play both Roxie and Velma in Chicago – which is also currently touring the UK. She would love to originate a role but stresses, “I don’t want to settle into anything”. She has always enjoyed performing and used it as an outlet when she was younger. She says, “The older I get, I realise, you’ve got a job to do, you love it. I love what I do”.
Whatever Carly Mercedes Dyer decides to do next, I’m excited to see. But let’s momentarily enjoy her as the fun, mischievous Erma in Anything Goes!
Anything Goes plays at Palace Theatre Manchester from 9th until 18th June, the final regional date of the UK tour before its highly anticipated return to London, where it will play at the Barbican Theatre from 25th June until 3rd September.