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Theatre Review: Anything Goes a Delightful Classic

Lisa Much Lisa Much Theatre Review: Anything Goes a Delightful ClassicEmma Stratton as Reno Sweeney and the company of Anything Goes. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
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Cole Porter undoubtedly remains one of the most influential names in musical theater history. His 1934 musical, Anything Goes, stands as a shining example as it has won several awards throughout the years, seen two Broadway revivals, two movies, and several other adaptations throughout the world. This classic show plays to eager central Ohio audiences this week.

Anything Goes almost exclusively occurs on a ship set sail from New York to London. Billy Crocker, a young Wall Street broker, stows away on the ship masquerading as gangster Public Enemy Number 1 to get a girl, the debutant Hope Harcourt, with whom he’s fallen in love. The ship’s crew devote themselves to finding Public Enemy Number 1, as Billy tries various costumes to conceal his identity. His love, Hope, is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, whom Hope’s mother really wants her to marry, but Billy’s friend, the reverend-turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and the obscure gangster Moonface Martin, along with his lady friend, Erma, plot to help him get Hope.

Emma Stratton as Reno Sweeney and Brian Krinsky as Billy Crocker in the national tour of Anything Goes. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Emma Stratton as Reno Sweeney and Brian Krinsky as Billy Crocker in the national tour of Anything Goes. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

This quasi-farcical show features several interesting characters, each diverse and quirky. Brian Krinsky’s Billy begins as the dull, worker-bee type and quickly escalates to the positively desperate man fighting without abandon for the woman he loves. Krinsky maintains strong stage presence in every character he depicts throughout his hiding, and his devotion to those roles makes the character’s stalking habits funny. However, in the almost cat and mouse game between Billy and Hope, the audience does not gain too much from the pursued. Rachelle Rose Clark’s Hope vaguely receives the opportunity to elaborate on why she cannot marry Billy, but other than that, she sort of exists as a tentative caricature, as though she questions each time she steps on stage.

Keeping with the comedy of the show, Dennis Setteducati’s Moonface Martin adds so much to this production. His energy pulses from the stage as the zealous, money hungry, really nice bad-guy, but can effortlessly pull back. Take, for instance, his quaint rendition of the adorable song “Be Like the Blue Bird,” which features fantastic integrative and responsive lighting for hilarious effect designed originally by Anthony Pearson. Also notable is Richard Lindenfelzer’s portrayal of Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, whereby the audience experiences a great transformation from awkward human to animalistic beast in “The Gypsy in Me.”

Surprisingly, Anything Goes features some fantastically strong female characters. Gangster-sidekick Erma, played commendably well by Mychal Phillips, adds a healthy dose of comedy to the show and stands out with her sensual salute to bluntness with the song “Buddie, Beware.” But, the drive behind the production comes from Reno Sweeney, played near perfectly by Emma Stratton. She almost never ceases to sing or dance and she rarely falters; Stratton anchors this musical with grace, ease, and comical skill. While it remains obvious Reno wants to settle down with a husband, we see layers to her because that never serves as her objective. Reno is a single, strong, caring woman who, in an excellent choice to already beautiful costumes by Martin Pakledinaz, even feels free to wear pants for the titular song.

The Anything Goes orchestra, conducted by music director Robbie Cowan who, fittingly, dons a captain’s hat sounds delightful. Overall, the music works really well in this production, apart from a few mishaps where the orchestra and singers battled to keep up with each other, most notably with “It’s De-lovely.” Director and choreographer Kathleen Marshall crafts a fun show which utilizes countless entrances and exits thanks to the simple set by Dererk McLane. Most of the dance seems effortless from these talented performers, especially the lengthy tap number during “Anything Goes,” which only struggled slightly in uniformity.

On the whole, the cast and crew, on Tuesday night, seemed uncomfortable in the Ohio Theater, more so than other touring productions, as though they were rushed in spacing. This is quite evident in some non-adjusted blocking where several visual gags occurred on extreme sides of the stage, obscuring themselves from portions of the audience. Perhaps bad weather delayed their Columbus arrival, but hopefully they get acclimated to the venue by the weekend and can adjust accordingly. Regardless, Anything Goes remains a fun show filled with quips, classic tunes, and imaginative dance.

Anything Goes is in town through Feb. 8 at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State Street and plays Wed.-Thurs. at 7:30 pm; Fri.-Sat. at 8 pm; Sat. at 2 pm; Sun. at 1 and 6:30 pm. Ticket prices range. More information can be found online at www.capa.com.

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