Also see John's review of The Old Man and the Sea
Composer and songwriter Cole Porter's work also includes the musicals Kiss Me Kate, Fifty Million Frenchman and DuBarry Was a Lady. Among his best known work are songs such as "Night And Day," "Be A Clown," "My Heart Belongs To Daddy," "Love For Sale," "Begin The Beguine," "You're The Top," "Too Darn Hot," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "I Love Paris," "Just One of Those Things" and "In The Still of The Night." Though the volume of his work speaks for itself, Cole Porter received but two Academy Award nominations during his lifetime. As a composer he was known for his wry wit, clever lyrics and sophisticated musical style. His bawdy lyrics and over-privileged lifestyle earned him a personal reputation that was a bit risqué. Alongside songwriters such as Irving Berlin, and George and Ira Gershwin, his songs live on today as part of the Great American Songbook.
Anything Goes is the story of the voyage of the passenger liner S.S. American, from New York to England. On board is an unusual group of passengers, including a dangerous gangster and a sexy moll (Moonface Martin and Erma), a wealthy debutante and her widowed mother (Hope and Evangeline Harcourt), a stuffy Englishman and a southern minister (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and Henry T. Dobson), a business tycoon and his stowaway assistant (Elisha Whitney and Billy Crocker), and a sassy nightclub singer/evangelist (Reno Sweeney) and her bevy of beautiful chorus girls known as "Angels" (Purity, Chastity, Charity and Virtue). Characteristic of the innocence of the time period in which this was written, everyone ends up on the right path in the end, but on the way thereanything goes!
Anything Goes really is one of the great tap-dance musicals, and choreographer/director Marcia Milgrom Dodge has made the dancing one of the stars of this production. The music is beautifully led and played by conductor/music director Helen Gregory and a live 10-piece orchestra. The set designed by Michael Schweikart is cleverly moved about throughout the show by the actors as they weave their way in and out of scenes. Costumer Gail Baldoni does a smashing job with Reno Sweeney's costumes, and actress Tari Kelley is a knock-out in nearly every one. (A technical note to the props mistress however: In the scene in Mr Whitney's stateroom, did he really pull out a champagne bottle with a UPC label on it in 1934, and then splash himself with Old Spice Cologne which didn't even exist until four years after this musical was written?)
On opening night the dancing was all smooth sailing save for a few moments of dancers looking like they were really concentrating on their feet rather than the audience. While the females featured in much of the dancing, the Angels, look like typical ingenue chorus girls, the male dancers are much more like character actors. This may be due to the males playing multiple cameo roles, but it is an unexpected visual when they are dancing together. All in all however, the dancing is top-drawer, as is the singing and acting in this fun-filled production.
Tari Kelley is sensational as Reno Sweeney. She has the big, brassy voice needed for the role, and comic timing that reminds one of Carol Burnett. She and Bret Shuford (Billy) in "You're The Top," and Shuford and Tom Beckett (Moonface) in "Friendship" are two highlights, for in these numbers they show great fun in what they are doing, and such a love for the audience. Bret Shuford has a lovely tenor voice and smooth dancing as Billy Crocker. He plays well off of Tari Kelley, establishing a fun relationship that is platonic rather than romantic. It is an odd choice that Shuford switches into his falsetto so much in "Easy To Love," which is one of the two prettiest melodies in the show (the other being "All Through The Night"). Other than that, he provides a very solid performance. Tom Beckett as clumsy mobster Moonface Martin is at his comic best in "Be Like The Bluebird." Wynn Harmon really finds the comedy in his role as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh as he struggles to assimilate modern American slang and customs. This can be a somewhat dry role, but he has found a way to make it quite fun. Ron deStefano puzzlingly never seems to nail his character as the Purser. The only consistent marker he has is that he talks in a loud and forward-placed speaking voice. Character actor Richard Vida has such strong acting presence and dancing skills that one wishes there were more meat to his role as the Captain.
Anything Goes will be appearing at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre through March 28, 2010. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre is a 550-seat, nonprofit, community-based Equity regional theatre belonging to the League of Resident Theatres, and the Florida Professional Theatre Association. This theatre employees both local and non-local Equity and non-union cast and crew members. The theatre is located at 1001 Indiantown Rd. (just off of A1A) in Jupiter, FL. For tickets and complete information on the theatre's offerings, contact them by phone at 561/ 575-3332 or 800/ 445-1666, and online at www.jupitertheatre.org.
*Designates member of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.
**Designates member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, an independent national labor union.
***Designates member of the United Scenic Artists, a labor union and professional association of Designers, Artists and Craftspeople.