With the recent opening of the Cole Porter biographical film De-Lovely, the Broward Stage Door Theatre has fortuitously timed its own opening of the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. Though the volume of his work speaks for itself, during his lifetime, Mr. Porter received but two Academy Award nominations. His clever lyrics and privileged lifestyle earned him a reputation that was a bit risque. Today, along side composers such as Irving Berlin, and George & Ira Gershwin, his songs live on in the heart of our Great American Songbook.
Anything Goes opened at the Alvin Theater on Broadway in 1934, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by P. G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Its screen version was released in 1936, starring Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby. In 1987, it was revived at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre with Patti LuPone in the leading role and a revised book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. It is the 1987 version that is appearing at the Broward Stage Door Theatre. I offer a nod to the Stage Door, which remains one of the few professional local theaters left in south Florida still offering musicals as a mainstay of their season.
Anything Goes is the story of the sailing of the S.S. American from New York to England. Carried aboard are an unusual group of passengers, including a dangerous gangster (Moonface Martin), a wealthy debutante and her mother (Hope and Evangeline Harcourt), a sassy nightclub singer (Reno Sweeney), and a wealthy businessman and his stowaway assistant (Elisha Whitney and Billy Crocker). 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 there - anything goes!
Erin Romero is truly enjoyable as Reno Sweeney and has just enough brass in her belt to be reminiscent of Ethel Merman. Partnered nicely with Dennis Clark as Billy Crocker, "You're The Top" is one of the highlights of this show. Another is "Friendship," her duet with talented young character actor Justin Barnette as Moonface Martin. Tiffany Lutz, as Erma, turns in a coquettish cameo performance in "Buddy Beware." And Duane Hatton as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh is good for a laugh. Jodi Lynne Sylvester as Hope Harcourt, though indeed beautiful, is somehow unable to create any believable romantic chemistry with her onstage love interest, Billy Crocker, thus leaving "All Through The Night" pretty but wan. Mr. Clark is quite charming as Billy. Unfortunately, his singing voice is made diminutive beside the meatier ones of co-stars Erin Romero and Justin Barnette.
With a cute set design by Sean McClelland, and choreography by Ron Hutchins, the ensemble is able to show off a bit in this potentially difficult piece. The first act's end is especially well danced, and scattered moments throughout the show are picture perfect.
What a "Lovely" way to reacquaint oneself with the wry wit, and sophisticated musical style that defines Cole Porter. And for those of you who have yet to experience Mr. Porter, I suggest you start here.
The Broward Stage Door Theatre, a professional theater hiring local and out-of-state non-Equity performers, is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd. in Coral Springs, FL. Anything Goes runs through October 10th. Tickets for this and other shows may be obtained by calling the theater at (954) 344-7765, or by visiting the theater on their website at www.stagedoortheatre.com.
-- Kevin Johnson