Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Anything Goes"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2008 by Tony Annicone

"Anything Goes"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Norton Singers' current production is Cole Porter's 1934 musical, "Anything Goes". Originally written for Ethel Merman, the show's book was revised in 1962 and again in 1987. Director Ted Mitchell uses the 1987 version and creates a high energy musical masterpiece. The show takes place in the 1930's aboard the luxury liner SS America sailing from New York to England with a group of unusual passengers. The story of boy, Billy Crocker who loves girl, Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to wealthy British suitor, Lord Evelyn, who is pursued by singing and dancing evangelist Reno Sweeney, is the basic storyline of this show. Throw in boy's heavy drinking boss, girl's domineering mother (done in drag in this show which is a hoot) public enemy # 13, his sexy gun moll, Reno's 4 fallen Angels, the captain, his sailors, a nun with her students and fellow passengers plus fabulous choreography and fantastic musical accompaniment and you have the ingredients for a spectacular show.

Ted shows his versatility in the excellent direction of the dialogue. His blocking of the show ensures that all the performers are seen at all times creating some splendid picture post card moments. "I Get a Kick Out of You" opens this version of the show as Reno puts the moves on Billy who only has the hots for Hope. The magnificent dance numbers by choreographers Judee and Courtney Bottomley include tap, tango, the Charleston, the horn pipe and many others. The two show stopping numbers are the tap dancing "Anything Goes" which closes Act 1 and the gospel revival dance number "Blow, Gabriel, Blow". Music director Anthony Torelli conducts his top notch 16 member orchestra but obtains the gorgeous harmonies in the group numbers "Bon Voyage", "Public Enemy Number One", the title song, "There'll Always be a Lady Fair", "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and "All Through the Night". The duets and trios sound excellent, too. The multitude of gorgeous 1930's costumes are by Daniel Kozar with lighting by Al Cunningham and hard working stage manager, Ken Butler keeps things moving smoothly all night long.

Janet Ferreri is topnotch as Reno Sweeney. She is a sultry red head who delivers her one liners wonderfully. Janet is a triple threat performer whose singing, dancing and acting in this huge role beautiful. She dances up and down the huge staircase during "You're the Top", tap dances up a storm with her girls during "Anything Goes" ( The four outstanding Angels are excellently played by Lauren Duffy, Michaela Murphy, Atia Gravely and Amy Rogers) and does a tango in "The Gypsy in Me" with Lord Evelyn. Alex Grover is superb as Billy Crocker. He is a senior at Wheaton College and has a voice that will knock your socks off. His majestic tenor voice is used in "You're the Top", "It's Delovely" and the romantic ballad "All Through the Night". (The dancing sailors are well played by Daniel Gravely, Joe Arsenault and Jay Silvi. They stop the show with Courtney in her "Buddie Beware" number in the second act.) Alex wears many comic disguises to avoid being caught by the purser.

The lovely Meghan Donnelly plays Hope, the fiancee of Evelyn who is really in love with Billy. She gives this ingenue the needed backbone to get what she wants> Her wonderful soprano soars in the touching "Goodbye Little Dream" and the plaintive, "All Through the Night. Kevin Mischley is a hoot as the prim and proper, Sir Evelyn who misunderstands American sayings. He has a wonderful British accent and gets to show the bawdy side of the character in "The Gypsy in Me" and "Let's Misbehave" both done with Janet. Two other scene stealers are Pete Molitor as Moonface and Courney Bottomley as Erma. Pete is fabulous as the hoodlum with the New York accent and his behavior as this comic hoodlum are hilarious. "Friendship" and "Be Like the Bluebird" are laugh out loud moments. Courtney is a hoot when she steals Jay's shirt and Joe's pants during the show. Her dancing to her "Buddie Beware" with the sailors is a show stopper as they carry her offstage as she holds the final note. Hope's snobby mother is hilariously played by John Marcus in drag, (his two daughters are talented in their own right and Addy Marcus is in this show with her dad while Livvy played the title role of Annie a few years ago) while Billy's heavy drinking boss is played by Ty Waterman who gets to sing the Yale crew song while soaking himself in a bathtub. Two other hilarious characters played by Bob Molitor and Bruce Fisher, are the gambling Chinamen who cheat at poker on board the ship. (Judee plays a wheelchair bound passenger who gets miraculously cured by Reno and Judee does a perfect somersault) Kudos to one and all who make this a show to be very proud of. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Anything Goes" (31 May - 8 June)
Wheaton College, 26 East Main Road, Norton, MA
1 (508) 285-4049

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide