Theater review: Shakespeare Festival's 'Anything Goes' a feast of music and dancing
Cedar City • The confectionery delight that is "Anything Goes" follows this amusing recipe:
Take one combination nightclub singer and evangelist, "the world's most sensuous sermonizer"; add a "broken-down broker" in love with a wealthy debutante engaged to marry someone else; mix in a gangster on the run pretending to be "a missionary from indoor China" and his moll; combine with a stuffy English lord who consistently fractures American phrases; stir in a nearsighted, slightly lecherous Yale man and the debutante's dithery mother; heat it up with a bevy of chorus girls and tap-dancing sailors; and confine them all on a luxury liner bound for England.
Fresh from its Tony Award-winning Broadway revival, the frothy musical just opened at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in a very entertaining production stylishly directed by Brad Carroll.
The premise may be paper thin, but it's fun from beginning to end. It's a pastiche of clever Cole Porter songs like "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top," "Easy to Love" and It's De-lovely"; cornball one-liners such as "he took Little Plum Blossom to rice paddy and came back with Little Plum Tart"; and lively song-and-dance numbers including "Bon Voyage," "Anything Goes" and "Public Enemy Number One," which has a decidedly Gilbert and Sullivan feel.
The accomplished performances make it work. The role of Reno Sweeney seems custom made for Melinda Parrett; her long legs, sophisticated look and ability to belt out a song shine in numbers like "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," which she turns into a cross between a nightclub act and a revival meeting. Did I mention she is also a great dancer?
Robert Adelman Hancock is a master of silly disguises and equally silly repartee as the love-struck Billy, and Elizabeth Telford combines a sweet voice with winsome appeal as Hope, the object of his affections.
Max Robinson cavorts and connives outrageously as Moonface Martin, public enemy No. 13, and Cate Cozzens' brassy Erma is smarter than she looks. Robinson's duet with Parrett on "Friendship" is a comic high point. Aaron Galligan-Stierle's sociable Lord Evelyn hasn't got a clue, but his playful, all-over-the-stage rendition of "The Gypsy in Me" showcases his impeccable comic timing. Joe Vincent's bumbling, self-important Eli is a perfect foil to Mindy Young's easily confused Evangeline, who acts as if she escaped from a Marx Brothers film (shades of Margaret Dumont).
Carroll's madcap direction and Jeremy Mann's efficient musical direction keep the show moving at a fast clip, and Rhett Guter's high-stepping choreography is exuberant and inventive. Jo Winiarski's blue and white ship-deck set is framed by flaring fins like a giant jukebox, and Jaymi Lee Smith illuminates them with pink, blue, magenta and lavender light. K.L. Alberts' elegant costumes are a kaleidoscope of swirling colors. Joe Payne's sound design highlights offstage jokes.
"Anything Goes" possesses no deep meanings or subliminal messages; it simply aims to please. It will make you want to sing and dance in the aisles.
Review: 'Anything Goes'
This professional production of "Anything Goes" will have you humming the tunes and tapping your toes.
When • Reviewed on July 5; continues in rotating repertory with two other productions Mondays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and afternoons at 2 through Aug. 30.
Where • Randall Jones Theatre at the Utah Shakespeare Festival on the campus of Southern Utah University, 300 West and Center Street, Cedar City.
Tickets • $33 to $74 with discounts for groups, students, and seniors. Tickets and information available at (800) PLAYTIX (752-9849) or http://www.bard.org.
Running time • Two and a half hours (including an intermission).