If you ask me…
- Tom Holehan

"Anything Goes" at Goodspeed  

 

Goodspeed Musicals, now under the reign of new Executive Director Michael Gennaro, has opened its 2016 season with the Cole Porter classic “Anything Goes”.  If audience reaction is any indication, Mr. Gennaro has chosen well.

With music and lyrics by Mr. Porter and a book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, “Anything Goes” is set aboard a luxury liner and packed with a veritable ship of fools. There’s romantic Billy Crocker (David Harris, a dreamboat), ignoring his boss’s orders to stay behind and stowing away to follow Hope (Hannah Florence), the girl of his dreams. Hope, accompanied by her pushy mother (Denise Lute), is engaged to marry the veddy English aristocrat, Lord Evelyn (Benjamin Howes). Billy’s lady friend, the cabaret singer Reno Sweeney (Rashidra Scott), is also on board along with “Public Enemy #13” Moonface Martin (Stephen DeRosa) and his moll, Erma (Desireé Davar). Broad comic performances keep the daffy plot spinning even when, under the direction of Daniel Goldstein, the book scenes seem to stall here and there.

“Anything Goes”, however, is primarily about the music and the catalog of gold standards here include “I Get A Kick Out Of You”, “Friendship”, “It’s De-Lovely”, “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and many more. At Goodspeed, the songs are all delivered in animated, clear voices led by Miss Scott’s stylish and statuesque Reno Sweeney. The plum role in this musical works for the most part, though I felt Scott was tentative at times and still working through some of her performance the night I caught the show. That rousing title song, though, is sung and danced to a fare-thee-well by Scott and company, leaving audiences breathless by intermission.

Mr. Harris is a tall drink of water as Billy and his gorgeous tenor voice brings lovely cadence to songs like “Easy to Love” and “All Through the Night”. He also pairs well with Scott in a joyful rendition of “You’re the Top”. Stealing the show with wicked glee is Mr. DeRosa’s Moonface Martin. Channeling Groucho Marx and Sid Caesar, DeRosa (who was easily the best thing in the Westport Playhouse musical “Sing for Your Shakespeare” a few seasons back), is a first-rate comedian ringing laughs from even the hoariest of clichés and puns. As his fast-and-loose lady friend, Erma, Miss Davar is hilarious and her performance of “Buddie, Beware”, late in act two, is a comic knock-out. Only Hannah Florence’s wan Hope, rarely connecting with her onstage love interest, leaves much to be desired here. In all, it should also be noted that this is the most diverse cast seen on a Goodspeed stage in years and credit should no doubt be given Mr. Gennaro.

I would have liked to see a little more done with Wilson Chin’s basic unit set, but placing Michael O’Flaherty’s spiffy orchestra on the top deck is a very nice touch. Ilona Somogyi’s sassy costuming, especially for the women, stands out as does Brian Tovar’s moonlit lighting. My few reservations certainly weren’t shared by the enthusiastic audience I was part of last week. “Anything Goes” will more than likely float your boat.

“Anything Goes” continues at Goodspeed in East Haddam, Connecticut through June 16. For further information or ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 860.873.8668 or visit: www.goodspeed.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the original founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.


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