BWW Reviews: Tony-Winning ANYTHING GOES Revival Is The Tops in O.C.
Who would have thought that a silly, old-fashioned, 80-year-old musical comedy can still, to this day, produce such rousing, exuberant cheers?
Well, okay... sure. The 1934 Broadway musical farce ANYTHING GOES is chock-full of timeless Cole Porter musical gems that are as de-lovely to hear today as they were when first sung during their heydays. But if you're going to mount yet another new revival of a show that countless small-town community theaters and high schools themselves have churned out on a regular basis, then a dazzling, fresh coat of yowza---along with a bit of 21st Century tinkering here and there---better be on the menu. Oh, and it also helps if you assemble an army of comically-gifted, tap-tastic talents steered by none other than Kathleen Marshall at the helm to sail it through the rough waters of a modern-day theater audience.
Well, lucky for us all, that is exactly what went into the latest big-budget Broadway production of the charming musical comedy, which eventually went on to win the 2011 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. And now---finally---after almost a year of touring North America (including an early stop at the Ahmanson Theatre a few freeways away), the Roundabout Theatre Company's buoyant production of ANYTHING GOES has finally docked its madcap ship of lunatics at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa for a shamefully-short one-week engagement through September 29.
Completely winsome and endearingly charming, Marshall's re-visit aboard the tune-happy S.S. American---featuring an updated libretto by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman---is an entertaining voyage through farcical entanglements and über-complicated shenanigans. Like an amped-up screwball comedy, ANYTHING GOES criss-crosses lots of silly, out-there vignettes sandwiched in between popular Porter classics such as "You're The Top," "I Get A Kick Out of You," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," "All Through The Night," "You'd Be So Easy To Love," "It's De-Lovely," "Friendship," and, natch, the title song. The results are adorable, downright funny, shamelessly romantic, and even jaw-dropping (Marshall's genius choreography---particularly the terrific act one closer---are eye-popping stars of the show).
ANYTHING GOES is, hands-down, one of the most jubilantly entertaining revivals I've seen in recent years. It's pure smile-inducing, gimmick-free musical comedy fun.
As with all iterations of the show, the story unfolds aboard a ship bound for London from New York. Amongst the ship's passengers is wealthy business tycoon Eli Whitney (the adorable Dennis Kelly) and celebrity debutante Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke), escorted by her mother Evangeline (Sandra Shipley) and Hope's new Brit fiancé Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (the very funny Edward Staudenmayer). Then there's minister Henry T. Dobson (Gary Lindemann) who has brought along a couple of Chinese missionaries (Vincent Rodriguez III and Marcus Shane) with him.
Unbeknownst to Mr. Whitney, his young employee, Billy Crocker (the dashing Josh Franklin) defies a direct order and stows away onto the ship, hoping to woo Hope---a girl he's fallen in love with after meeting her for the first time quite recently. And, most amusing of all---unbeknownst to the entire ship---wanted criminal mastermind "Moonface" Martin (the hilarious Fred Applegate, a master of comic timing) has also boarded the ship, hiding out in disguise alongside his horny moll Erma (scene-stealer Joyce Chittick).
Of course, at the axis of all the action is Reno Sweeney, the sexy infamous nightclub singer with a not-so-secret crush on Billy---here played with exquisite style and divalicious gusto by Broadway vet Rachel York. Entrancing and completely swathed in enviable talent, this genuine triple-threat is a mesmerizing stage presence. And, gosh, what a singing voice!