BWW Reviews: TSU-San Marcos Premieres Glorious New Venue with Stellar Production of ANYTHING GOES
It's tough to decide what I like more, a great production or a great new theater. Thankfully, I got both during my recent trip to Texas State San Marcos Department of Theatre and Dance. Their current production of Anything Goes is stunning, as is the new Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre.
Let's start with the venue. The theatre, which makes its debut with this production, is one of the best venues you're bound to find in Central Texas. The 400 seat theater feels large but still intimate, the sleek design is a thing of beauty, and the acoustics are incredible. It's also quite nice that TSU-San Marcos now has a traditional proscenium stage, complete with an orchestra pit, balcony seating, and box seats.
And now, Anything Goes. Wow. I've praised other TSU shows like Urinetown and Into the Woods, but Anything Goes is in a class all its own. Directed by Kaitlin Hopkins and choreographed by Cassie Abate, the production is polished, snappy, and redefines "high energy." College productions are rarely this good. Hell, touring productions are rarely this good. If this show doesn't put a smile on your face throughout its 2 hour and 30 minute duration, I'd suggest you see a doctor.
Granted, it helps that Anything Goes features Cole Porter's best score. The songs "Anything Goes," "You're the Top," "De-Lovely," and "I Get a Kick out of You" all hail from this show. Add to that a book featuring zany intersecting storylines of mistaken identities, gangsters, sailors, and showgirls all on a luxury ocean liner and you have the recipe for pure musical comedy.
Hopkins' direction and Abate's choreography play up the entertainment value of the material. Hopkins ensures that every character is wildly fun to watch, and Abate provides the show with many a show-stopping number. Sheila Hargett's costumes, particularly the dazzling gowns, are absolutely gorgeous, and Michelle Nye's wonderful set has its share of clever surprises.
The entire ensemble nails the comedy of the show, not to mention Porter's score and Abate's demanding choreography. J. Robert Moore proves to be a scene-stealer as an aristocratic yet daffy Brit, as does Michael Burrell as a near-sighted drunken buffoon. As Moonface Martin, gangster and public enemy #13, Ian Saunders gives a wonderfully comedic performance, but it's his charm that is most memorable. Leading man Stephen Brower is equally outstanding. As Billy, Brower uses his wholesome looks, golden voice, and Fred Astaire-like moves to great effect, and he's more than capable of his character's occasional moments of slapstick.
And then there's Annie Wallace as Reno Sweeney. Tackling a role previously played by Ethel Merman, Patti LuPone, and Sutton Foster should strike fear in the hearts of any young actress, but Wallace confronts the character head-on. To call her performance extraordinary wouldn't do it justice. She has Ethel's brass, Patti's stage presence, and Sutton's dance ability. In short, she's the top, as is this ridiculously entertaining production.
Running time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.
ANYTHING GOES, produced by Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance, plays its final performance at the Patti Strickel Harrison Theatre at 601 University Drive, San Marcos tonight, April 15th, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $8-$18. For tickets and information, please visit www.txstatepresents.com