Story: It’s anchors aweigh as the SS American prepares to depart New York City for England. On board is Wall Street magnate Elisha Whitney, who plans to spend the journey wheeling and dealing as well as having a bit of fun. He entrusts his aide, Billy Crocker, to take care of business while he’s away, but the young broker has love on his mind.
Billy has fallen instantly in love with a young woman he saw in a taxi shortly before he headed to the ship. Seeing her go aboard, Billy stows away to meet her again, even though he’s learned that the girl, Hope Harcourt, is engaged to marry an Englishman named Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, an arrangement engineered by Hope’s imperious mother, Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt.
Also making the voyage are evangelist-turned-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and her backup quartet known as the “Angels” as well as Moonface Martin, a bumbling gangster known as “Public Enemy #13,” and his pal Bonnie, girlfriend of Snake Eyes Johnson, aka Public Enemy #1.
Moonface and Bonnie take a liking to Billy and help him in his quest to win the heart of Hope, while Reno sets her sights on the quirky but charming Lord Evelyn. When Billy is discovered on board and is mistaken for Snake Eyes, he is lionized for his celebrity status by passengers and crew as well.
When that doesn’t sit well with Hope, Billy identifies himself and promptly is thrown in the brig along with Moonface. It’ll take some doing, but with the help of Reno, Moonface and Bonnie, it’s just a matter of time for Billy before ‘anything goes.’
Highlights: Sarah Porter sparkles in the role of Reno Sweeney like one of the fabulous gowns she wears to accentuate this rollicking, infectious good time. With a smart, energized supporting cast deftly directed by Scott Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor, New Line Theatre blends silly comedy, stylish music and effervescent performances in a winning combination which cleverly utilizes all hands on deck.
Other Info: With music and lyrics by the incomparable Cole Porter, Anything Goes first hit Broadway in 1934, featuring a book written by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse with substantial contributions by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. There actually have been four versions of the show, including the 1962, 1987 and 2011 revivals.
The 1962 version of Anything Goes – the one followed in New Line’s production – incorporates some tunes written by Porter originally for other shows, such as Paris, DuBarry Was a Lady, Red, Hot and Blue, Fifty Million Frenchmen and The New Yorkers. No matter. Porter’s tunes are so wonderful and intelligent that it’s a joy to hear them at any time and in any musical.
The other Porter, Sarah, takes the pivotal role of Reno Sweeney and completely captures the siren’s vivacity and joie de vivre in her portrayal. In the ‘62 version Reno and Billy are just friends, with the worldly Reno surprisingly setting her sights on the square but likable Sir Evelyn.
Porter also uses her excellent voice to entertain the audience, whether in a duet with Evan Fornachon as Billy on You’re the Top, the solo number I Get a Kick out of You or leading the ensemble on rousing versions of the revival number Blow, Gabriel, Blow and the title tune.
Fornachon is an irrepressible Billy, full of good nature and better intentions which go awry given Billy’s hapless predicament. Fornachon is a joy to watch as he warbles You’re the Top with Porter, gets down with the comedy in Friendship with Porter and Aaron Allen as Moonface or serenading Eileen Engel as the fetching Hope with It’s De-Lovely and the charming ballad, All Through the Night.
Allen mines the comedy as the amiable if bumbling Moonface, working well opposite Porter and Fornachon as well as Sarah Gene Dowling as the sexy scamp Bonnie Letour, his gal pal with a flavor for agreeable sailors. Dowling leads the troupe with lusty versions of Heaven Hop and Let’s Step Out, numbers which take advantage of the effective choreography contributed by Michelle Sauer and Sara Rae Womack.
Sauer and Womack comprise half of the appealing Angels, who also include Larissa White and Alyssa Wolf, as fine a quartet of tap-dancing lovelies as you’re likely to encounter on the high seas. Engel is ideal as the winsome Hope, having great fun opposite Fornachon’s lovelorn Billy and suitably under the thumb of her browbeating mother Mrs. Harcourt, who is played to the overbearing hilt by Kimmie Kidd-Booker in a fine comic performance.
Not to be outdone is Zachary Allen Farmer, who personifies the right proper heritage of Sir Evelyn while also falling under the sway of the determined Reno. Jeffrey Wright brings home the bombast and confusion of powerbroker Whitney, suitably stumbling about without his spectacles for much of the show. Dominic Dowdy-Windsor, Will Pendergast, Jason Blackburn and Clayton Humburg do well in minor parts.
Pianist Nicholas Valdez nicely conducts the New Line Band, which features trumpeter Ron Foster on the Blow, Gabriel, Blow number as well as fine contributions by percussionist Clancy Newell, Adam Rugo on guitar and banjo, Jake Stergos on bass and Joel Hackbarth at second keyboard. Positioned at stage right, the band is lively and entertaining presenting Porter’s score without being intrusive.
Miller and Mike Dowdy-Windsor keep the pace relatively smooth and move the sizable ensemble effectively enough throughout Rob Lippert’s nautical scenic design which Lippert lights as well. Colene Fornachon contributes the appealing costumes, Ryan Day adds sound and Kimi Short offers some amusing props.
Cole Porter knew how to write tunes with smart lyrics and snappy music. New Line Theatre finds the heart in this 1962 version of the good-humored Anything Goes.
Musical: Anything Goes
Company: New Line Theatre
Venue: Marcelle Theater, 3310 Samuel Shepard Drive
Dates: March 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, 24
Rating: A 4.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Jill Ritter Lindberg