Billy Crocker (Erich Bergen) is a simple guy who’s life gets complicated quick fast and in a hurry. As the right hand man of the wealthy business man Elisha Whitney (Dennis Kelly), Billy’s prospects are looking up. So much so that he plans to ask the girl of his dreams, debutante Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke) to marry him. However, upon delivering passport and tickets Mr. Whitney onboard an oceanliner for his boss’s impending intercontinental cruise, Billy finds that his true love is betrothed to another, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer). In a frantic effort to stop the wedding, or at least find out why Hope has taken up with this Englishman, Billy becomes an accidental stowaway.
Also in board the cruise is night club performer Reno Sweeney (Rachel York), on the lamb gangster Moonface Martin (Fred Applegate) and his girl Erma (Joyce Chittick). Moonface Martin, who is actually public enemy number twelve, dons the disguise of a minister to evade capture long enough to make it to Europe. Billy inadvertently aids Moonface, for which the mobster gives him a cruise ticket and help with other disguises. Reno takes the cruise fresh off of Billy’s decline of her offer to allow him to propose to her. Did you get all that? Despite being rejected by Billy, she conspires with Moonface to help Billy secretly woos Hope, while dodging his boss Whitney, Hope’s mother, Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt (Sandra Shipley) and the ship’s crew who now think that Billy is public enemy number one, Snake Eyes Johnson.
If it is one thing I had expected from the Cole Porter classic musical, it was the nostalgia and the pageantry that accompanied musicals of its era. However, Anything Goes is much more in league with the screwball comedy a la A Fish Called Wanda. With the silly series of subplots to link all the musical numbers together, the show is goofball comedy and musical numbers, laughs and lyrics in equal measure. This production does a great job in maintaining that balance, making the comedy king. in a genre that often puts the musical numbers on a pedestal, Anything Goes was great fun thanks to terrific performances by all; in particular by the supporting cast members Edward Staudenmayer, Dennis Kelly, Joyce Chittick and Fred Applegate.
Rachel York is extraordinary, from the very first notes of "I Get a Kick Out of You." York’s Reno Sweeney is funny, glamorous and even vulnerable. She leads one of the most ambitious and brilliantly entertaining tap dance numbers I have had the privilege to witness with the spectacular Act One finale of the title song "Anything Goes." For both a clever execution and musical charm, high marks must also be awarded to Fred Applegate and his Moonface Martin jail-cell rendition of “Be Like the Bluebird.”
The dance company of this production was truly great. Director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall scores high marks for musical numbers that garnered a nod of nostalgia to a very classic style with movement that felt very modern and effervescent. The asymmetrical choreography of “It’s De-Lovely” was both interesting and elegant, quite lovely indeed. This company of dancers is simply terrific, every last one of them. Well Done.
Finally, this production definitely deserves a nod for the individual elements themselves. Kudos to Martin Pakledinaz for costume design that singlehandedly transports the audience to the 1930s after a single glance. Similarly, Derek McLane‘s chameleon-like scenic design is simultaneously majestic and simplistic, while being endlessly versatile and exciting. Howell Binkley’s light design is a character all its own in this production, wonderfully integrated and interactive without being intrusive or showy. To all production department heads, Well Done!
Anything Goes is one of those classic musicals that translates to the 21st century because it is about a boy chasing a girl, and all the inevitable goofiness that ensues when colorful characters join forces towards that goal. This show truly is an entertaining pleasure cruise for the whole family. Check it out!
The Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Anything Goes is running now through January 6, 2013 at:
The Ahmanson Theatre
135 N. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012