The very wacky and very funny “ANYTHING GOES”

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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.

12088549_10208084385975515_6589841268173524002_nThe 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.

12108068_10208084386455527_6271161679469496255_nBut 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.”

12122417_10208084387415551_3906844773692878270_nThe 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.

 

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.