Anything Goes, a '30s Broadway hit and Tony-winning Lincoln Center 1987 revival, is a fast paced musical chock full of Cole Porter songs. The current Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production at the Benedum is based on the revival with new book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman and sets by Tony Walton.
The story is basically that of Billy Crocker (Ron Bohmer) who stows away on a luxury ocean liner in order to prevent the girl he loves, Hope (Glory Crampton), from marrying British stuffed shirt Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (George Dvorsky). Crocker is aided by friend and ship chanteuse Reno Sweeney (Carolee Carmello). To make this a door-slamming, disguise loaded farce, add in gangster Moonface Martin (Leslie Feagan) and his moll Erma (Nancy Lemenager), Hope's pretentious mother Evangeline (Lisa McMillan) and Crocker's Wall Street tycoon boss Elisha J. Whitney (Dimitri Christy).
The Tony Walton set of the U.S.S. American, complete with bank of four revolving doors (on a turntable), stairways on right and left leading to the top deck where the band sits, and topped by the ship's stack, allows for the movement that is needed for Anything Goes' "which way'd he go?" direction. The split second timing of the entrances and exits worked well, even though the cast only rehearsed together for seven days, and no heads appeared to be bumped during the countless revolutions of the doors.
Costumes provided by American Musical Theatre of San Jose were perfect, particularly the multitude of women's gowns.
As Reno Sweeney, Carolee Carmello (Parade, "Remember WENN", The Scarlet Pimpernel) follows in the footsteps of Ethel Merman and Patti LuPone. Pittsburgh is lucky to see this enormously talented woman on stage. Ms. Carmello glides through the show with ease, comfortable in her role as Reno Sweeney. The songs in this show may not showcase her vibrato-rich husky soprano style as well as perhaps Parade did, but she certainly delivers every note with polish. Unfortunately, the one song she could have really belted, "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" was hampered by a poor sound system.
Ron Bohmer (The Scarlet Pimpernel with Carolee Carmello) seems to have fun in his role as Billy Crocker and performs with boundless energy. If you don't like Billy, you won't like the show, and there's no problem with that here. Bohmer really engages the audience. His voice is perfect for these Cole Porter songs. On "Easy to Love" and "It's Delovely" in particular, Bohmer really shows his range and, to put it rather inelegantly, he manages to smoothly deliver even the highest notes without sounding like someone is pulling his shorts. He and Glory Crampton are well matched in their duets - Crampton has a gorgeous voice and looks to match. She doesn't really get a chance to do a whole lot of acting in this frenetic show, but she has wonderful stage presence and I look forward to seeing her in a role with more depth.
George Dvorsky (The Scarlet Pimpernel) is hilarious as Sir Evelyn. Dvorsky is from the Pittsburgh area and, from the whoops heard in the audience, had a lot of fans present. The role calls for a bit of a British lampoon, but could easily be overdone and too campy. Dvorsky stays within the boundaries and makes the role a standout. It was disappointing to not hear him sing more, but "The Gypsy in Me" was funny enough to make up for the disappointment (and we can always buy his new CD, "In the Still of the Night").
The supporting cast members add a lot to the show and help keep up the pace. Leslie Feagan (replacing Peter Scolari) played Moonface at the Lincoln Center and is definitely perfect for the part (as he would be for one of the gangsters in Kiss Me Kate - if he worked with Lee Wilkoff, they would look like twin bad guys). I wish Nancy Lemenager had really opened up in her one big song, "Buddie, Beware". It needs to be done big and I'm sure she's up to the task.
I'd like to single out one performer in the Ensemble (playing the one line part of Virtue), Sarrah Strimel. I have seen Miss Strimel in several CLO shows and was lucky enough to see her play Anita in a high school production of West Side Story just last year. With Gymnasia height, incredible flexibility and a maturity beyond her 19 years, Miss Strimel always draws attention, but even more she really shines on stage - as a dancer and, as witnessed in West Side Story, as a singer and actress. I hope she goes far.