Old Favourite Revived at a Fast Pace
It’s an oldie but a goodie – the musical Anything Goes was written a full 82 years ago. As you watch this show, keep in mind that this material was cutting edge in 1934. It may even have been considered scandalous!
But the production now on stage at Huron Country Playhouse is presented at a fast pace, more to the liking of today’s audiences. It features a talented cast, with true triple threats who can sing, dance and act, giving the old jokes new life.
Billy Crocker, a young New York stock broker in training, has fallen in love with the heiress Hope Harcourt, who is about to set sail on an ocean liner for London. He stows away on the ship, hiding from his boss who’s also on the ship. His old friend, Reno Sweeney is on board as an evangelical entertainer, but she’s really a showgirl singer. They learn that Hope is actually engaged to an older British Lord. So Reno and Moonface (public enemy #13) try to help Billie in his quest to win Hope’s love.
Director and choreographer Michael Lichtefeld has assembled this talented cast and has made this old favourite very lively. Jayme Armstrong, always popular at Huron Country Playhouse, has the role of Reno Sweeney. Armstrong is the sassy 1930’s gal who pretends to be an evangelist while poking fun at them. Patrick Cook combines his smooth singing with just the right amount of comedy as Billie Crocker. Keely Hutton as Hope Harcourt is the perfect debutante, almost ready to go against her mother’s wishes and marry beneath her.
Sheldon Davis steals the stage as Moonface Martin, the crook. Davis is hilarious in his disguise as a preacher, trying to avoid capture. Adding to the comedy is Tim Funnell as the hapless British aristocrat who doesn’t understand Yankee English. Funnell has perfect comedic timing in the delivery of the misunderstood language.
The always funny Keith Savage is back, this time in the role of the boozing boss, who wins the affections of Mrs. Harcourt, played by K.K. Edissi with her hilarious handling of her puppy. Lee-Anne Galloway is Moonface’s moll, a typical gangster’s chick with attitude.
The rest of the cast sing and dance their way through some wonderful Cole Porter tunes. The tap dancing sailors and angels are excellent. In addition, there are many familiar tunes such as Armstrong’s charming I Get a Kick Out of You and her powerful Blow, Gabriel, Blow. It’s De-lovely with Cook and Hutton is also an excellent rendition of a popular old song.
Credit goes to musical director Jeannie Wyse for making their 6-person band sound much bigger. They get the audience’s attention immediately with the rousing overture.
While the show has been rewritten and revived on Broadway many times over the years, it still contains some dated material that is almost cringe-worthy. Some components that might not be written in a script today can be overlooked by understanding that it was a different world 82 years ago. Staggering drunks were considered very funny in the past, and the line “Some get a kick from cocaine” is a holdover from roaring twenties. There is some subtle mockery of evangelists, and there is also a scene that might be considered cruelty to a dog, but all is well in the end. The notion that women just want to catch a man and get married is also showing its age. But most socially unacceptable are Chinese stereotypes and the imitation of their accents. This production has handled this situation as well as possible, trying not to be disrespectful to the Chinese characters by making it seem like it’s the other characters’ stupidity.
Nevertheless, taking it in the context of the times with its old jokes and corny comedy, along with some memorable songs, Anything Goes can be a very enjoyable musical and this cast has presented it well, with high energy at a fast pace.
Anything Goes continues with eight shows a week until August 6 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com
Photo: Jayme Armstrong and Company in Anything Goes. Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter
New Book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman
Directed & Choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld
Musical Direction by Jeannie Wyse
Performed by Jayme Armstrong, Patrick Cook, Sheldon Davis, Karen K. Edissi, Tim Funnell, Lee-Anne Galloway, Keely Hutton, Keith Savage et al.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
July 21 to August 6, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson