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Review: ANYTHING GOES - Cole Porter Sails On In Style

Apply witty lyrics to memorable melodies, throw in some spirited dance and a bit of broad comedy and you've got the makings of a classic musical. The other major ingredient needed is a cast to bring it all off and the Ogunquit Playhouse has assembled a good one for its highly-entertaining production of "Anything Goes."

Broadway veteran Andrea McArdle has the lead role in the Cole Porter musical, directed by Jayme McDaniel from a new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. Perhaps distracted by a cast on her left forearm resulting from a recent accident, McArdle took some time finding her way into her role at the Sunday matinee reviewed here. But, she's a good fit as Reno Sweeney, the brassy evangelist with the heart of gold, and her early lapses were largely forgotten as she came on strong when the show performance as a whole gained steam.

Her "You're the Top" duet with her first (but not last) love interest Billy, played by Josh Canfield, set the tone for the richly sophisticatEd Porter numbers within the show and her work with Ray DeMattis, as the gangster Moonface Martin, on "Friendship" had the pair working the earthier side of the story.

The tale of shipboard romance, spiced with criminal and carnal hijinks, on a transatlantic voyage provides the opportunity for a number of fun moments as true love seeks to find its way among a collection of quirky characters plotting with and against each other.

Ogunquit favorite Sally Struthers made her presence felt early as she arrived on stage accompanied by an adorable Cairn Terrier which, the program informs us, is her own. Struthers was a comedic delight as her character Evangeline pursues a rich husband for her daughter while perhaps also finding one for herself. She earned some of the afternoon's biggest laughs during her repartee with Steve Brady, as a businessman who's a bit of a lush, but was hilarious throughout.

Thematically above it all is the socially unlikely-to-succeed romance between stowaway Billy and debutante Hope, who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Patti-Lee Meringo and Canfield established their swooning ardor with "Easy to Love" and Porter's grand "It's De-Lovely." Each showed talent at the type of old-school ballroom dance stylings that signify romance while singing with both joy and trepidation, as in their long-distance duet on "All Through the Night."

Ian Knauer plays Oakleigh as a sort of Monty Python-style British twit who comes to life when he discovers that "The Gypsy in Me" makes him better suited for a different type of romance.

The title song finished the first act with spirit as McArdle and the ensemble of more than a dozen filled the stage with tapping feet and liberated singing voices.

As if not to be outdone, the second act lead off with the high-powered "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," which got everyone involved in the uplifting piece led by McArdle. Both sexy and highly athletic dance moves, choreographed by Jason Wise, made this number a fully-realized standout.

Among the rest of the cast, Mychal Phillips earned an ovation as the floozy Erma and Alex Domini stole some comedic moments as the ship's purser.

The period costumes by Martin Pakledinaz and the three-level set by Derek McLane add to the sense of this show being a quality effort, as does the fine live musical accompaniment under the direction of Charlie Reuter.

Despite still harboring a couple of dated stereotypes, this is a show that reminds us of what made the old-time musicals so much fun.

Photo by Gary Ng.

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From This Author - Steve Feeney

Steve Feeney is a Maine native who attended schools in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. He began writing professionally after earning a Masters Degree in American and New Engl... (read more about this author)