Alhambra Theatre & Dining Review
The Alhambra Theatre opened Cole Porter’s classic “Anything Goes” on October 21, 2015. The production is a precision-tooled and handsomely cast revival that makes the most of every musical moment and every plot twist and all the fun will be on stage at 12000 Beach Boulevard in Jacksonville, Florida through November 22, 2015. Call (904) 641-1212 or visit alhambrajax.com for reservations.
This musical opened in 1934 with songs especially written for Ethel Merman who did the show on Broadway and also appeared in the 1936 movie, along with Bing Crosby. The play was originally called “Hard to Get” and the plot included bomb threats and a shipwreck on a desert island. However, a few weeks before a scheduled NYC opening, the SS Morro Castle, a passenger ship, had a fire while en route from Havana to New York, which resulted in 138 deaths, so the script was reworked to avoid any association with disasters at sea. “Anything Goes” was selected as a new title. The revised play had a successful opening followed by a run of over 400 performances.
The very wacky and very funny story line has the ship going from New York to London. One of the stars of the show is immediately apparent as you enter the theater where Set Designers Ian Black and Dave Dionne have constructed a magnificent two-story cruise ship with a deck that extends out into the audience.
Young stock broker Billy Crocker, played by handsome Griffeth Whitehurst, who has a fine singing voice, has stowed away on the ocean liner because he is madly in love with heiress Hope Harcourt. Hope is portrayed by Lindsay Sutton, whom you may remember from her previous appearance on the Alhambra’s stage in the leading role of Christine in “Phantom.” Miss Harcourt complicates matters, as she is engaged to one of the passengers, Evelyn Oakleigh (Shain Stroff), who is a wealthy but unaffectionate English aristocrat. Hope’s widowed mother Evangeline (Lisa Valdini) wants the pair to marry as soon as possible because, unknown to Hope, she is broke and needs the money Evelyn will bring to the household. Hope isn’t at all excited about Evelyn or the marriage, but is prepared to go through with the ceremony as she has promised. The nightclub singer and unofficial tour guide is Reno Sweeny, played by Becca Gottlieb, who can really belt out Merman’s songs and is also a marvelous dancer.
But Billy is not the only stowaway on this ship. Small time crooks Moonface Martin (Matthew Jay Campbell) and his girl friend Erma (Jessica Hayden) are disguised as missionaries. Both are excellent singers and they excel in comedy, with Campbell mowing down the audience with a machine gun of laughs in a hilarious and shrewdly mischievous performance.
The third really comic character is Mark Poppleton as Elisha Whitney, Billy Crockers’ boss, a constantly boozing businessman who develops a romantic interest in Evangeline.
These eight featured characters sing up a storm with all those great Cole Porter songs, which include “Blow Gabriel Blow,” “I get a Kick out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “All Through the Night,” and “Easy to Love.”
The other eleven members of the cast are terrific singers and dancers. They include Kurt McCall (Ship’s Captain), Mark Mansilungan (Ship’s Purser), Travis Young (Bishop Henry T. Dobson), and the dancing sailors and chorus girls of the ensemble: Tyler Baxter, Lee Cohen, Ryan Lingle, Conor Fallon, Laurie Sutton, Alexia Adcock, Lesley Mealor and Makiko Kuri.
If you like high velocity tap dancing, you will see plenty of that during the title song “Anything Goes,” which is a showstopper filled with a powerhouse cast, outstanding choreography by James Kinney, and beautiful costumes by the Costume Crew. The scene will linger with you long after you have left the theatre.
Director Tod Booth has staged a pitch-perfect comedy, with catchy songs, preposterous deceptions and disguises; yes, a silly sophisticated frolic that has it all.