Monday, May 2, 2016

Review of "Anything Goes"

Some aspects of this critique were used from a previous review.

The Goodspeed Opera House’s season opening production of Anything Goes can be delightful and delicious, but not always thoroughly de-lovely. 

The star of the show is the Cole Porter score which includes such classics as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and “Anything Goes.” And that’s just in Act One! Many of the songs are lovingly presented with just two performers singing and dancing in front of the handsomely fashioned cruise ship set, designed by Wilson Chin.  At times I hoped a chorus line would materialize onstage, but that would have been a distraction and taken away from the very essence of Porter’s ballads and comedic duets. At the end of Act One the musical finally does deliver a full-blown, intoxicating tap dancing extravaganza by the entire cast. I think, at its conclusion, the audience was just as wired at the actors on stage.

The second Act continues with a spirited production number of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and then, for the most part, settles down to sort out the silly plot lines of the book. The libretto by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse, with new material by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, is typical of 1930’s musicals where the storyline is secondary and the jokes can make you wince. In Anything Goes, which takes place about a transatlantic cruise ship, there’s the requisite mistaken identities, seemingly unrequited love of the two young protagonists, and a happy ending where all loose ends are magically resolved and true love wins out for everyone.

Sporadically, but frequent enough, the show seems to just lumber along.  What is missing from the production is the madcap energy and over-the-top pizzazz that could consistently elevate the musical into nonstop merriment and jocularity.  There should be more revving of the engines instead of idling in neutral.

This is not to say all is amiss aboard the transatlantic ocean liner.  Anchoring the cast is the captivating Rashidra Scott as the swinging, sultry nightclub star, Reno Sweeney.  She is slinky smooth, sexy, and a bona fide triple threat with her self-assured singing voice, high wattage dancing, and disarming acting talent.  David Harris, who made a thrilling Connecticut debut in last summer’s Connecticut Repertory Theater production of Les Miserables, is a bit too composed as the love struck Billy Crocker.  I was waiting for him to show more of his comedic talent like his partner in crime, Stephen DeRosa as Public Enemy No. 2, Moonface Martin.  DeRosa, channeling his inner Groucho Marx, is absolutely hysterical as the stowaway gangster.  Every time he alit on stage hilarity was soon to follow.  Hannah Florence, as Hope Harcourt, while possessing a lovely singing voice, gets overshadowed by her more sparkling co-stars.  Benjamin Howes as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, turns in a comic tour-de-force with his Act II number, “The Gypsy in Me.”

Choreographer Kelli Barclay is at her best when turning the small Goodspeed stage into pulsating, tap dancing extravaganzas as evidenced by the Act I closer, “Anything Goes” and the Act II opener, “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”

Director Daniel Goldstein could have injected more vitality into the musical, which would have made it a truly dazzling piece of entertainment.   He does an admirable job maneuvering the large cast through its paces and routines.  The director also skillfully highlights the antics of feature players, Desiree Davar as Emma and Patrick Richwood as the Purser, giving them a chance to robustly illuminate the production.

Anything Goes, setting sail through June 16th at the Goodspeed Opera House.

No comments: