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Anything Goes is a fun romp through all the classic musical tropes with mistaken identities, goofy antics, and awesome songs. It’s no surprise that this production won the Tony Award for Best Revival in 2011.
Featuring the music and lyrics of Cole Porter, most people nowadays may likely only be familiar with the titular song… and likely due to its prominence in the opening act of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Other songs may be known to a more seasoned mind (“It’s De-lovely” & “Friendship”). Yet every song is a classic and is performed fantastically by the ensemble cast. I found myself to be unwittingly smiling after several numbers due to the impressive staging, performances, and music.
Anything Goes follows the story of Reno Sweeney (played by Rachel York), a nightclub singer, and her friend/crush, Billy Crocker (played by Josh Franklin) as they board the S.S. American with different goals in mind. Just before the boat departs, Billy runs into the girl he fell in love with just 3 weeks past and decides in a minute to stowaway… with some help from gangsters on the run. When Billy finds out that the girl he loves, Hope Harcourt (played by Alex Finke), is engaged to a Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (played by Edward Staudenmayer), he, Reno, and his newfound gangster friends band together to try and break up the marriage!
While I enjoyed the first act’s numbers greatly, but I didn’t notice the smile on my face until that act’s finale (“Anything Goes”). The incredible tap dancing choreography (done by Kathleen Marshall who also directed) couple with the amazing singing of Rachel York wowed me. The ensemble all came out and tap danced in unison and was a sight to behold. It didn’t quite top the opening to Indiana Jones but it came close!
Two other numbers were memorable, but for different reasons. “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” is a great evangelical number that showcases Ms. York’s talents, as well as those of the ensemble. I couldn’t help but smile and applaud at their energetic and fun performance of that song. Finally, “All Through the Night” stuck out to me for the great singing by Mr. Franklin and Ms. Finke, as well as the set. While the set normally reflected the S.S. American’s deck, this particular scene features their moving cabin sets as well as an incredibly evening scene, as the young lovers sing about their dilemma. The sight of Billy in the brig under the deck, while Hope sings on deck, staring at the stars, is incredible.
I also want to point out the role of Erma, the gangster’s moll, who happens to play the man-crazy comic relief. She only has one song to herself (“Buddie, Beware”), but she sings it well and provides a great deal of laughs with her performance throughout!
The set is simple, amazing, and dynamic at the same time. Ship cabins will roll in and out as needed, portholes will light up with various colors to match the mood of the song, and you’ll be surprised at how well they handle changing the deck of the ship to a nightclub.
It should also be noted that Segerstrom Center for the Arts also has its own performance premiering with this show! Stage & Screen is a new exhibit that will be updated throughout this season to provide background information, videos, and memorabilia pertaining to the shows. For Anything Goes, I noticed a nice overview of the history of Anything Goes, showcasing the various productions and movies and providing little tidbits of knowledge (like how Ethel Merman allegedly did not get along with Frank Sinatra during the filming of the 1954 television production and refused to work with him again!)
The second feature was “You’re The Tap” demo lessons before the show in the lobby. This interactive show has a tap dance artist, Ashley Rentfro, guide the audience through a sample tap dance lesson. I watched for a few minutes and noticed that the participants were having a good time and those gathered around were enjoying the event.
If you are looking for a feel-good show that covers a lot of classic songs, Anything Goes is a good choice. Grab your tickets and catch Anything Goes at Segerstrom Center for the Arts from September 24th to September 29th!