Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Anything Goes takes place on a ship sailing to England, with various characters on board, mistaken identities, Chinese missionaries, gangsters, and romantic possibilities. Including such well-known Porter songs as "You're the Top," "It's Delovely," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and the title song, set around a very funny book, it's understandable why the show has been revived so many times on Broadway and is a staple at theatres across the country.
This is one of those shows that has been revised several times since its first Broadway production back in 1934. Songs have been removed as well as other songs added in from other Porter scores. The 1962 Off Broadway revival was the first to include such songs as "Friendship" and "It's Delovely," while the 1987 revival dropped some of the songs in the '62 revival and featured a new book co-written by the son of one of the original book writers. The 1987 version seems to be the one most produced, so it's a treat for Phoenix theatregoers that Desert Foothills Theater is producing the 1962 version, as it's the only one to include "Take Me Back to Manhattan" and "Let's Misbehave", both of which receive terrific versions in this production.
When you have an actress like the knock out Kat Bailes who can not only sing but dance in the lead part of nightclub singer and cruise headliner Reno Sweeney, it is easy to create dance numbers around her talents instead of having to hide your star's lack of dancing skills. Let's just say that, as much as I loved Patti LuPone's take on Reno Sweeney in the 1987 Broadway revival, she didn't dance much at all. Fortunately, that's not the case here and choreographer Mary Lee Baker has created some excellent dances for the entire company, including Bailes' Reno. Bailes is like a firecracker in this show, not just with her dancing and singing but with her well-timed comic delivery of her dialogue as well. With the excellent hair designs from Jacob Hamilton she resembles Doris Day in one of her many screen musical comedies. Well, a sexy, sassy Doris Day. Like several others in the cast, Bailes also evokes a period accent that works well for the style and time period of the show.
Glenn Parker is Moonface Martin, the comical public enemy who is disguised as a minister in order to not get caught. Parker has some great comic bits in the show, gets to do a little singing, which he pulls off well, and is simply fun and lovable to watch. As Billy Crocker, the romantic lead, Andy Albrecht brings a perfect level of charm to the part, and he sings and dances nicely as well. As Hope, the woman Billy is in love with, Kim Cooper-Schmidt does a nice job of getting across the fact that some of Billy's actions are upsetting to her, and delivers nice vocals on "It's Delovely" and "All Through the Night," both sung with Albrecht. Matthew Harris is Evelyn, the slightly crazy Englishmen that Hope is engaged to marry. I think this is the fourth or fifth show I've seen Harris in over the past year and he is always excellent, always presenting characters that are unlike the other ones he has played. He evokes a hilarious British accent, has a winning stage presence, and knows his way around a comic moment. His "Let's Misbehave" in act two with Reno is both funny and sweet. As Moonface's friend Bonnie, Jacqui Notorio is sublime, with the same look and style of speaking that Bailes uses to cement the production in the 1930s time period of the show. Notorio is an excellent dancer and she leads the female ensemble in a very funny "Heaven Hop." While the show is mainly an ensemble piece, with all of the leads getting almost equal time, it is Bailes and Harris that steal the show with their perfectly delivered performances.
Director Sarah Bernstein keeps the show moving along at a fast clip, with the comedy fresh, the songs sublime, and an effective use of the large multi-generational ensemble. Baker has created a superb, varied assortment of choreography for the production. Design elements are excellent, from Mickey Courtney's amazing costume designs to Dale Nakagawa's stunning lighting, including the use of some lush blue shades for the night scenes on the ship. While Dillon Girgenti's set design is fairly a single, large set piece of the deck of a ship, it is quite effective. Dan Kurek's musical direction is great, as is his conducting of the seven-piece band, making it appear to sound much larger.
All in all, DFT has produced a solid production of this classic show. If you're looking for a humorous, joyful musical, don't miss Desert Foothill's Theater's Anything Goes.
Desert Foothills Theater's Anything Goes, through November at the Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center, 33606 N. 60th Street in Scottsdale. For more information and tickets, visit www.desertfoothillstheater.org or call 480-488-1981
Directed by Sara Bernstein