Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Goodspeed Opera House Presents Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" - As Close To Perfect As You Can Hope To Find - Through June 6th

(Caveat: Several weeks ago I underwent rotator cuff surgery, and my right shoulder, arm and hand have been immobilized in a sling until very recently. I just began several months of post-op physical therapy.  I had been severely hampered in my ability to type, so several worthy shows that I have seen recently have not been reviewed in a timely manner.  Beginning with today, I will work to clear up the backlog.  Please be aware that my reviews may be more limited than usual until I am up to date. Several excellent shows are no longer playing, but I will highlight them, offering the assurance that when it comes time to submit my suggestions for nominations for the 2016 IRNE Awards, these shows and the people involved with them, will receive the consideration they deserve. Thank you for your understanding and support.)

&   &   &   &   &   &   &   &   &   &   &

 (Center) Rashidra Scott as Reno Sweeney and Cast Members
Cole Porter's "Anything Goes"
Goodspeed Opera House
Through June 6th
For a long while, I had wanted to find an opportunity to see a show at the fabled Goodspeed Opera House along the Connecticut River in East Haddam. The opportunity finally presented itself, and I made my way to this bucolic and gorgeous spot a few miles above New London.  The Goodspeed embraces as part of its mission the responsibility to curate and to preserve the works of musical theater that have graced stages for the past century and a half.  The setting is the beautifully restored mansion of William Goodspeed, 19th century shipping and banking magnate.

The occasion for my visit was the opening of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes." (In point of fact, because of complications with my travel schedule, I was in attendance at one of the final preview performances, but I cannot imagine that anything could have been improved when the official opening took place a few days later.  The show I saw in previews was pure perfection at every level!)

This is a show I had not seen before, although there are several movie versions of the story extant. The Broadway debut took place in 1934 starring Ethel Merman in the role of Reno.  The story is a wonderfully silly tale of mistaken identity, love overcoming impossible obstacles, gangsters that are treated as celebrities, and Wall Street investors sailing to Europe on the eve of the great Wall Street Crash of 1929.  The show is stuffed with wall to wall familiar Cole Porter tunes, including: "I Get A Kick Out of You," "You're The Top," "Friendship," "It's De-Lovely," "Anything Goes,"Blow, Gabriel, Blow," and "All Through The Night."  If that is not enough to keep your heart racing and your feet tapping, then there is the eye-popping choreography of Kelli Barclay, executed to perfection by a tireless ensemble of dancers.  Tap dance has never been more fun.

Director Daniel Goldstein has assembled a team that has created a show that equals anything on Broadway.  Production values are outstanding.  The set by Wilson Chin is so authentic I almost felt seasick. Costumes by Ilona Somogyi capture both the period and the ethos in which this tale sets sail. Lighting by Brian Tovar and Sound by Jay Hilton are effective and unobtrusive. Musical Director Michael O'Flaherty leads a stellar orchestra.

Let's talk about the triple threat performers in this fabulous cast.
  • Rashidra Scott is stunning in the pivotal role of Reno Sweeney. She makes her way in the world as sort of a singing evangelist cum night club chanteuse.  She and her band of supporting acolytes and angels nearly stop the show with the rousing anthem "Blow, Gabriel, Blow."
  • David Harris is convincing as the young Wall Street broker, Billy Crocker, who stows away aboard the ship S.S. American, hoping to spend time with Hope, with whom he has fallen in love as soon as he had set eyes on her in NYC. He and Reno blend beautifully in the duet "You're The Top," and he and Hope are outstanding in "All Through The Night."
  • Hannah Florence is perfect as Hope Harcourt, engaged to the boorish Lord Evelyn, but secretly sharing Billy's affection. She and Billy team up vocally in the familiar number "It's De-Lovely."
  • Benjamin Howes is wonderfully arch as the hapless Lord Evelyn, destined to lose the girl despite having the advantage of rank over Billy.
  • Stephen deRosa is Moonface Martin, "Public Enemy #13."  His moll, Erma, is played by Desiree Davar, who gets to join the sailors in the tune "Buddie, Beware."  Moonface disguises himself as a minister with the help of Billy, and joins Reno in singing a rousing rendition of "Friendship."
  • Denise Lute plays Hope's mother, Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt.  She is obsessed with her Pomeranian lap dog.
  • Kingsley Leggs is Elisha J. Whitney, Billy's boss on Wall Street.  He fears that he may be ruined if Billy does not execute a sale of stock that Whitney is sure will tumble in value, but Billy opts to jump onto the ship instead of executing the trade. We get to hear Mr. Leggs vocal chops in "The Crew Song."
  • Patrick Richwood as the Purser is the comic foil throughout the proceedings, and almost steals the show with his hilarious and outrageous buffoonery. He has a face with a thousand expressions, and he uses them all with perfect comic timing.  His is a stand-out performance among many excellent star turns by this cast.
  • Jay Aubrey Jones as the Captain get to shine when he and the Sailors sing "There's No Cure Like Travel."
  • John Ramsey as Rev. Henry T. Dobson has as part of his entourage, Luke (Christopher Shin) and John (Sam Tanabe), two reformed gamblers.
  • In this production, the ensemble of dancers and singers carry much of the weight and burden of telling the story, so they need to be highlighted as well: Brittany Bohn, Sy Chounchaisit, Alison Jantze, Karilyn Ashley Surratt, James Tolbert, Edward Tolve and John T. Wolfe.
Stephen DeRosa, Rashidra Scott, David Harris
and the cast of Goodspeed's "Anything Goes"
(c) Diane Sobolewski
I suppose as a critic I am expected to find something about this show that was less than first class or short of ship shape.  Sorry.  I was delighted with every aspect of the performances and the Goodspeed experience.  I hope that I will be docking frequently at East Haddam for upcoming shows like "The Roar of The Grease Paint - The Smell of the Crowd," "Bye Bye Birdie, Sign of the Times," and "Chasing Rainbows."

"Anything Goes" continues at the Goodspeed through June 6th.  Pull up anchor and make your way there.  You do not want to miss the pleasure cruise.

Goodspeed Website



No comments: