BWW Review: ANYTHING GOES at Arena Stage - Get On Board For A 'De-Lovely' Voyage of Music and Dance

BWW Review: ANYTHING GOES at Arena Stage - Get On Board For A 'De-Lovely' Voyage of Music and Dance

Director Molly Smith explains why she chose Cole Porter's 1934 musical hit ANYTHING GOES in the program. ..." Mobsters walk amongst us and are celebrated like Kings. ANYTHING GOES is about our American obsession with celebrity, religion, and how con men can fool most of the people most of the time...I love the fact that this musical has it all from burlesque to high and low comedy to satire about the state of America today. It's delicious. No less than five of Cole Porter's songs in ANTHING GOES became real bona fide hits and still are today."

One should recognize these hits as soon as Music Director Paul Sportelli raises his baton for the terrific overture. Songs such as "I Get a Kick Out of You", "You're The Top" "It's De-lovely", "Anything Goes", and "Blow , Gabriel , Blow". Located below the stage, the nine-piece orchestra was just plain fabulous.

While the play opens in a bar in Wall Street, it quickly moves to an ocean liner leaving New York City for London in 1934. The depression was still going on and 1938, just four years later, it would be difficult for ships to make this crossing due to World War II.

Broadway audiences were in the mood for fun musicals to take their mind off reality and ANYTING GOES did the trick.

The musical surrounds the characters of Reno Sweeney (a superb Soara Joye Ross). I noticed in the program she was on Broadway in the Lincoln Center production of Dessa Rose and then I noticed her name on the poster of the play I have in my home. Sweeney loves one Billy Crocker (Corbin Bleu of "High School Musical" fame) who she finds as a stowaway on the S.S. America and works for Wall Street's Eli Whitney (the terrific Thomas Adrian Simpson). He is pursuing his love Hope Hardcourt (Lisa Helmi Johanson) who as it turns out is engaged to a British Lord named Evelyn Oakleigh (Jimmy Ray Bennett).

Other characters include a publicity-seeking Captain (Jonathan Holmes), a couple of Asian card sharks (Christopher Shin and Julio Catano-Yee) and a terrific ensemble who sing and dance like there is no tomorrow.

Certainly, a highlight is a cute gangster posing as a Priest "Moonface Martin who carries a machine gun in his violin case. Stephen DeRosa almost steals the show with his shenanigans and comedy. One of his funny adlibs occurs when the stage becomes bare and he address the audience by saying, "Did you notice they're always removing furniture in this play?" I remember DeRosa from his work 19 years ago at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He is an actor who you will always remember.

Director Smith made a wise decision is using the book of the recent Tony-winning version by writers Timothy Crouse and John Weidman.

Special kudos to Choreographer Parker Esse who has had much success in the Baltimore/Washington area with his work. But he must have the requisite talented dancers to accomplish his dance steps and he has here. Blue is simply outstanding dancing with Soara Joy Ross like they are Astaire and Rogers. They glide over the stage like they were ice-skating. The tap dancing is terrific. And they even sing at the same time. What a treat to watch them perform.

There are two characters that are double-cast. They are Maximillian Moonshine and Olly who both play cute dogs (Cheeky). I saw Olly and he was wonderful.

In the past I have complained that sometimes I had a difficult time hearing actors when they do not face you while performing in plays set on the in-the -round Fichhandler stage. But I must admit I did not miss a word or note here thanks to Sound Designer Daniel Erdberg.

Set Designer Ken MacDonald uses a hydraulic lift center stage for changing scenes and has high staircases in each corner of the theater where actors not only sing but dance. I found it terrific that I was so close to the actors during these scenes.

Costume Designer Alejo Vietti and Kimberly Purtell (Lighting Designer) do yeoman's work.

Is ANYTHING GOES dated? Sure. It was written in 1934 remember. You may feel like it's 1934 when you laugh at jokes like "What was the dog doing in the swimming pool? The dog paddle!"

But you will be enthralled by the music and the performances. It is a time warp.

ANYTHING GOES runs until Dec. 23. For tickets, call 202-488-3300 or visit www.arenastage.org.

Also check out the wonderful play INDECENT which continues at Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater until December 30, 2018.

THIS AND THAT

On December 2, 2018, the Kennedy Center held its 41st annual national celebration of the arts - The Kennedy Center Honors. Artists honored in 2018 include singer and actress Cher, composer and pianist Philip Glass, Country music entertainer Reba McEntire, and jazz saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter.

This year, the co-creators of Hamilton-writer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, and music director Alex Lacamoire-received a unique Kennedy Center Honors as trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category.

In a star-studded celebration on the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, the 2018 Honorees where be saluted by today's leading performers from New York, Hollywood, and the arts capitals of the world through performances and tributes.

Set your DVRs: The Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for the 41st consecutive year as a two-hour primetime special on Wednesday, December 26 at 8 p.m. ET.

The Kennedy Center hosts MISS SAIGON Dec. 11 to January 13 and the hysterical British comedy THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG: Dec. 18 to January 6.

It was just announced by the Kennedy Center that Jessie Mueller will be playing Marion Paroo in the Broadway Center Stage production of THE MUSIC MAN running Feb. 6 to Feb. 10, 2019. Norm Lewis will be playing Harold Hill

The National Theatre has BEAUTIFUL, THE Carol King MUSICAL through December 30.

Signature Theatre continues with BILLY ELLIOT until January 6, 2019 and MOTOWN: THE REPRISE until Dec. 22.

A Christmas Carol at both Chesapeake Shakespeare Theatre in Baltimore, Ford's Theatre in DC, and Olney Theatre Center which also presents the musical ELF (until January 6).

Metro Stage has CHRISTMAS AT THE OLD BULL & BUSH until Dec. 23.

Toby's Dinner Theatre continues with DISNEYS' THE LITTLE MERMAID until January 13.

Round House Theatre has August Wilson's GEM OF THE OCEAN has been extended to Dec. 30.

Theater J has TALLEY'S FOLLY running Dec. 7 to Dec. 30.

Baltimore Center Stage has A WONDER OF MY SOUL until Dec. 23.

Studio Theatre has CRY IT OUT to be followed by KINGS beginning Dec. 12 in Studio X

Everyman Theatre has THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST until Dec.30.

cgshubow@broadwayworld.com

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From This Author Charles Shubow

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