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BWW Reviews: Stages St. Louis' Delightful and De-Lovely ANYTHING GOES

When you've been reviewing shows for a while you're bound to see a few more than once or twice. And, while I've had the opportunity to see Anything Goes a couple of times before, I can honestly say this is the finest production I've been privileged to attend. Packed with a slew of memorable tunes (music and lyrics by the late, great Cole Porter), a clever and very amusing script (new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman), high energy dancing, and a top notch cast, this ranks as one of my favorites shows of the year. Stages St. Louis consistently delivers quality entertainment, but this presentation far exceeded my already high expectations, and I honestly consider it to be a must-see! It's a genuine crowd pleasing experience that will make you want to come back for more. But, get your tickets now, because it will surely sell-out quickly!

The original show debuted in 1934, at a time in our nation's history when we were deep in the midst of a devastating depression, and folks were desperately in need of some form of escapism. Some found it at the movies, and some on Broadway, where splashy and flashy shows allowed them the chance to forget about their troubles, if only for a little while. This version is the 1987 revival, but the basic elements of the plot remain intact, although some songs are included that were not present in the original, while others appear in different places. A couple were even plucked from other shows. The collection of material is a brilliant showcase for Porter's enormous gift for melody and lyrical inventiveness.

Billy Crocker has fallen hard for Hope Harcourt, but her mother is dead set on her marrying Lord Evelyn Oakleigh as a way to relieve their financial woes. His boss, Elisha Whitney is sailing on a cruise ship to England along with the Harcourts, the incomparable singer, Reno Sweeney, and Moonface Martin (Public Enemy #13), as well as a number of other colorful characters. He's given Billy the job of liquidating some stock which he's been told is about to bottom out. But, instead of following through on that task, Billy decides to follow his heart instead, stowing away on the liner in an effort to sway Hope's affections. There are plenty of twists and turns that occur along the way, which provides the opportunity for some hilarious vignettes, and a bevy of spectacular numbers that will stay with you long after the shows ends and the lights come up.

Brent Michael DiRoma is handsome, likable and charming as Billy, and he does splendid work with a fabulous score that's a great fit for his pleasing vocals. The vivacious Julie Cardia brings down the house repeatedly as Reno, belting out several show-stopping songs, while aiding Billy in his quest, even though she has her own strong feelings toward him. Bob Amaral is an absolute riot as Moonface Martin, and Laura Taylor is a spicy treat as his companion, Erma, who takes advantage of the trip to naughtily work her way through the ship's crew. Whit Reichert, rock solid as always, does fine work as Elisha Whitney, and Kari Ely is properly haughty as Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt. Heidi Giberson is lovely as Hope, displaying vocal clarity while vacillating between her mother's wishes and her own desires. Dan Fenaughty is very funny as Lord Evelyn, constantly confusing and confounding everyone with his inability to grasp American slang.

A large and very talented supporting cast includes: John Flack (the ship's Captain), Brennan Caldwell (Ship's Purser), Claire Logan (Purity), Lois Enders (Chastity), Gaby Gamache (Charity), Bronwyn Tarboton (Virtue), the Sailor Quartet (Craig Blake, Drew Humphrey, Erik Keiser, and Chris Kotera), and many other superb performers. Of course, I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't mention the adorable pooch Millie, who plays Evangeline's beloved dog, Cheeky.

Michael Hamilton's outstanding direction allows this work to shine with a brightness that's as infectious as the music. Lisa Campbell Albert's musical direction is excellent, and Stuart Elmore's orchestral design sounds fabulous. Stephen Bourneuf's choreography is spot on and tight as a drum, featuring some smooth romantic clenches, as well as a lively tap dancing number that brings forth thunderous applause. James Wolk's scenic design gives the whole piece a decidedly art deco flavor that provides Brad Musgrove's gorgeous period costumes a background that allows them to really pop! Sean Savoie's expressive lighting adds the final dazzling touch.

You can't possibly go wrong if you choose to see this marvelous production. Stages St. Louis has breathed new life into an absolutely brilliant staging of Anything Goes. This is just a tremendously entertaining show that demands your attendance, and it continues through August 16, 2015 at the Robert G. Reim Auditorium. Hey, when my nine-year old son describes it as "Awesome!" (his favorite descriptive declaration of the moment), you can believe it's true.

Photo credit: Peter Wochniak


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From This Author Chris Gibson