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“Anything Goes”

Goodspeed Opera House

 

Goodspeed Opera House is currently presenting a zesty and high-spirited production of the classic musical, “Anything Goes.”  Featuring wonderful songs by Cole Porter and a book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman (based on the Guy Bolton & P.G. Wodehouse and Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse original), this production is blessed with a wonderful Reno Sweeney in the form of Rashidra Scott and enormously inventive direction by Daniel Goldstein.  In fact, just about all of the principal roles are extremely well-cast and everyone seems to be having a blast onstage.  Add in a swinging band, a group of terrific dancers, and an extremely good-looking physical production and Goodspeed Opera House has a real hit in its current staging of “Anything Goes.”

I first saw “Anything Goes” back in 1988, at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, CT, starring Leslie Uggams, and later saw Chita Rivera in a staging of the show at New Jersey’s Papermill Playhouse.  I mention this to say that I am very familiar with this show, and I thought that the Goodspeed Opera House “Anything Goes” would be a pleasant, if not super exciting, experience.  I was wrong.  Director Daniel Goldstein and his able choreographer Kelli Barclay have found so many unexpected moments and surprises throughout the show that they make this “Anything Goes” feel absolutely reborn.

The first thing that Goodspeed Opera House gets right is the casting of Rashidra Scott as Reno Sweeney.  From the moment she enters, singing a silky “I Get a Kick Out of You,” she commands attention and proves to be not just a great singer, but a terrific dancer and comedienne, as well.  Indeed, by the time she gets to “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” in Act II, her vocalizing practically stops the show.  Rashidra Scott is a real find and truly makes the part of Reno Sweeney absolutely her own.

In the role of Billy Crocker, David Harris has the looks, the voice, and the acting skill to be the perfect leading man for the show.  Also standing out, in supporting roles, are the wildly funny Stephen DeRosa as Moonface Martin and Desiree Davar as his vibrant accomplice, Erma.  Of all the productions I’ve seen of “Anything Goes,” Stephen DeRosa has been able to find the most laughs in this role and transforms his big solo number, “Be Like the Bluebird” (not my favorite song in the show), into an absolute riot.  Matching him comically, Desiree Davar is a delicious, big-voiced Erma and she puts over her big “Buddy Beware” number near the end so well that she practically brings down the house.

In other parts, Hannah Florence lends her lovely soprano voice to the debutante role of Hope Harcourt, and Denise Lute is very funny as Hope’s mother, Evangeline.  In fact, this entire cast is top-notch, including a humorous and spirited Benjamin Howes as Lord Evelyn Oakley (who makes the most out of his one number, “The Gypsy in Me”) and Kingsley Leggs manages to win laughs as Billy Crocker’s near-sighted boss, Elisa J. Whitney.  Add in a tap-happy group of terrific chorus dancers, and this “Anything Goes” is pure dynamite.

The director also works well with his designers, including a sleek set design of the cruise ship (courtesy of the talented Wilson Chin), fanciful costumes by Ilona Somogyi, and perfect lighting by Brian Tovar.  The sound design (by Jay Hilton) is notably superb and the masterful musical director Michael O’Flaherty leads his expert orchestra wonderfully well.

This “Anything Goes” at Goodspeed Opera House comes up aces in just about every department and makes this show a deliriously grand evening of theatre.  So, for all those who are as familiar with the show as I am, be assured that this production makes one see “Anything Goes” almost through new eyes.  And, for newcomers to this show, you will also have a rollicking good time.  “Anything Goes” at Goodspeed Opera House is truly a fresh and vibrant production and offers guaranteed fun.

“Anything Goes” continues performances at Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT through June 16, 2016.  For tickets, please visit www.goodspeed.org or call the box office at 860-873-8668.

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