Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 30, 2016

Anything Goes

Goodspeed Opera House, East Haddam, CT
through June 16, 2016
by Shera Cohen

Shortly before attending “Anything Goes,” my theatre friend asked if she would hear any familiar tunes. Besides the title song, I could only think of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” These are the two energetic dancing/song belting ensemble big numbers. However, there’s a lot more. Cole Porter’s music and lyrics include a list of 1930’s best known songs: “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Easy to Love,” “Friendship,” “All Through the Night.”

Aside from Broadway, Goodspeed’s productions set the bar of excellence in musicals pretty much everywhere, all the time. Audience goers should expect the best, and that’s exactly what they get. “Anything Goes” is tried and true; a good bet for success. But, Goodspeed doesn’t rest on laurels. The crew has swabbed the deck and spit-polished the staircases of this ocean liner set. The skilled musicians perform onstage on the ship’s top deck. BTW, how could only seven sound like a full orchestra? Director Daniel Goldstein keeps the dialog snappy (lots of shtick) and the pace smooth. Choreographer Kelli Barclay finds an even balance of Astaire & Rogers moves with tap dancing to blow the roof off the theatre.

The musical’s plot is thin with absolutely no redeeming value; the characters are the epitome of caricatures. The story in one sentence: a motley group of folk, some with British titles and others with machine guns, meet on a ship. There’s the popular mistaken identity theme, not to mention boy meets girl then leaves girl then returns then…it’s all so silly and so funny. “Anything Goes” does not call for the talents of good actors. Instead, the stage/ship is populated with singers or dancers or those who can handle both tasks superbly and simultaneously.

Worldly Reno Sweeney (Rashidra Scott) is the central character. Scott plays Reno with sass and class. More importantly, Scott’s mezzo sound is smooth in her solos and brassy in the big, all hands on deck, pieces. Stephen DeRosa (a Groucho-ish Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin) unabashedly milks every line or lyric for laughs. He is a gem. While the forlorn lovers Billy (David Harris) and Hope (Hannah Florence) have fine voices in solos and duets, and each actor is solid in his/her role, a smile or swoon or two could have beefed up the charisma. Ah well, “It’s De-Lovely” is…well…lovely.

A step back to tap dancing. I’ve seen this musical before, so there was no imperative reason to go again. My guess, however and knowing the work at Goodspeed, was that the title’s showstopper alone would be worth the price of admission. It was. Wow!