Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Anything Goes"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Welcome to the 1930's aboard the luxury liner S.S. American, sailing from New York to London with a group of unusual passengers. The closing show of Ocean State Theatre Company's fourth season is the classic 1934 musical "Anything Goes" by Cole Porter. This show was originally written for Ethel Merman back in the 1930's. It was revised in 1962 and again in 1987, this time starring Patti LaPone as Reno. Director Amiee Turner infuses this show with high energy. The premise of the story is about boy, Billy Crocker who loves girl, Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to wealthy British suitor, Sir Evelyn who is pursued by singing and dancing evangelist, Reno Sweeney. Throw in boy's heavy drinking boss, girl's overbearing and domineering mother, public enemy # 13, his sexy gun moll, Reno's fallen angels, the captain and assorted crew members and passengers plus fabulous choreography by Gerrianne Genga and fantastic musical accompaniment by Esther Zabinski and you have the ingredients for one of the must see musicals of this spring season.

Amiee directs this madcap, fun musical wonderfully and keeps the pacing of their wild antics in constant motion. Her blocking of the show and Gerrianne's choreography is excellent. Her dynamite dance numbers include tap, tango, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers style dancing, the Charleston and many others. The two show stopping numbers are the breathtaking tap dance to "Anything Goes" at the end of Act 1 and the gospel revival dance to "Blow Gabriel Blow." Esther not only plays the lead keyboards and conducts a five piece orchestra but obtains gorgeous harmonies in "Bon Voyage", "There'll Always Be a Lady Fair", "Anything Goes", "Public Enemy Number One" and "Blow Gabriel Blow." The outstanding leading lady is Jessica Wagner as Reno. She is a sultry, sexy brunette wearing a red wig for this role. Jessica delivers her one liners with the power and punch they need. She is a triple threat performer who delivers the goods with her strong belting voice and her dancing prowess. Jessica dances up a storm in "You're the Top" with Billy, "Friendship" with Moonface, tap dancing terrifically in "Anything Goes", "Blow Gabriel Blow" and a sexy tango with Evelyn in "The Gypsy in Me." Reno is tough as nails but shows a softer side when she sings "I Get a Kick Out of You" when she puts the moves on Billy. Jessica makes this role her own like Merman and LaPone before her.

Her fantastic leading man is Nate Suggs as Billy. He is another triple threat performer. Nate handles the comic shtick perfectly while possessing a marvelous tenor voice which he displays in "You're the Top" with Reno, "Easy to Love" and "It's DeLovely" with Hope as well as "All Through the Night" with Hope and the crew. Nate displays his dancing prowess in "You're the Top" with Reno and "It's DeLovely" with Hope. His falsetto is terrific when he pretends to be an old lady in a wheelchair at the beginning of this song. Billy's many comic disguises are hilarious as he tries to elude the purser and the sailors. I first reviewed Nate at Theatre by the Sea in "The Producers" back in 2008. The lovely brunette, Jade Genga plays Hope who is engaged to Sir Evelyn but really loves Billy. She gives this ingenue a backbone to stand up for what she really wants. Jade's soprano voice is heard in the romantic duet "It's DeLovely'', in the poignant "Goodbye Little Dream, Goodbye", and in the plaintive "All Through the Night." She displays her dancing prowess in the duet, the gospel number and the finale. I have been reviewing Jade since she was in high school. Tall lanky Andrew Boza is perfect as the prim and proper British Lord Evelyn who misunderstands American terms and slang words. He has a topnotch British accent and powerful voice which he displays in the bawdy "Gypsy in Me." Andrew is a hoot in this role. His antics are priceless.

Two other scene stealing performers are Dennis Setteducati as Moonface Martin and beautiful red head, Katie Howe as Erma, his gun moll. Dennis is fabulous as Public Enemy # 13 and his thug like behavior is hilarious. His two songs are laugh out loud moments in "Friendship" and especially in "Be Like a Bluebird." Dennis' strong voice and dancing prowess shine in these two numbers. Katie returns in triumph to perform back in her native RI after ten years as the man crazy, Erma. She is a spitfire in this role and plays it like a dumb blonde. Katie sings and dances up a storm in this comic role. Her eleventh hour number "Buddie Beware" stops the show with her dancing prowess and powerful belting singing voice. It is a torch song she sings with the fabulous dancing sailors, David Groccia, Taylor Hilt Mitchell, Brian-Barry Pereira and Daniel Larson. Two other comic performers are Billy's drunken boss, Elisha, beautifully played by Jason Loete who shows off his pipes in "I Want to Row on the Crew" and Hope's snooty mother played to the hilt by Diana Blanda as Mrs. Harcourt. Both of them win many laughs all night long. So for a magnificent closing musical of Ocean State Theatre Company's fourth season, be sure to catch the tap dancing extravaganza before they tap dance their way out of town. Tell them Tony sent you. Kudos to the cast and crew on a job very well done. Special praise to stage manager Robert Miller who keeps things running smoothly all night long as well as to Bert Scott for the splendid two story ship set and to Emily Taradash for all the gorgeous 1930's costumes especially impressive were Reno and Mrs. Harcourt's outfits.

ANYTHING GOES (27 April to 22 May)
Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI
1(401)921-6800 or

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