CENTERVILLE — Anything Goes is probably Cole Porter’s second best known musical, following Kiss Me, Kate, and has received much attention with the latest revival on Broadway this year. It is also the latest offering at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre. The musical premiered in 1934 and has gone through numerous revivals and revisions. The production at Centerpointe and currently on Broadway is essentially the same as the 1987 revival and incorporates several songs from other Cole Porter musicals. Music really is the main attraction of this show. The story is something of a farce and doesn’t really hold up under much scrutiny, but that’s part of the fun.
Anything Goes tells the story of Billy Crocker, a Wall Street broker, who has fallen in love with Hope Harcourt. He goes to the dock to bid bon voyage to his boss, Elisha Whitney. There he sees Hope and finds out that she is engaged to be married to Sir Evelyn Oakley. Also on board is evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. Billy inadvertently helps out Moonface Martin, public enemy #13, and his moll, Erma. They smuggle him aboard ship using public enemy #1, Snake Eye’s Johnson’s passport and ticket when he fails to show up. Billy works to break up Hope and Evelyn, and gets mistaken for Snake Eyes. Reno then agrees to help break them up and ends up falling for Evelyn. Hope reveals that the marriage is arranged to enable her family to keep their position, since they have lost their fortune. In the end it all works out for the best and everyone has a happy ending.
As I said the music is the real attraction of the show with such hits as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “It’s De-lovely” and the title song “Anything Goes.” Musical director Anthony Buck has done a wonderful job of leading the cast through the wonderful Cole Porter score. The songs mentioned here were all well done by the cast. I think my favorite numbers were “Friendship” and “Anything Goes,” and those seemed to really stand out from the rest. Director Leslie Giles-Smith kept the action well-paced and the story moving along. Choreographer Maggy Lawrence (who also plays Reno Sweeney in the T/Th/S cast) kept the chorus numbers lively, especially the tap dancing in the first act finale, “Anything Goes.” Costumers Michael Nielsen and Kathy Seegmiller created lush period costumes that never looked cheap or homemade. And the set design by Scott Van Dyke was well suited to the CenterPoint stage.
The leads all performed extremely well. Maggy Lawrence was engaging as Reno and had real chemistry on stage with both Billy and Evelyn. Jon Rash as Billy sailed through his songs with a clear tenor voice and the most enticing smile you’re likely to see on this or any stage. He made Billy a very likeable character and just lit up the stage whenever he was on. However, as wonderful as Mr. Rash was, he was almost upstaged by Krystal Day as Erma. She brought a ditzy charm to what could have been a stereotypical gangster’s moll, and her number “Buddie, Beware” was incredibly cute. David Marsden and Dave Hill both had great fun with the broad roles of Moonface Martin and Elisha Whitney, respectively.
Opening night had its jitters. There was an awkward break in the action at one point that left a part of the cast onstage waiting for someone’s missed entrance. There was also a slight malfunction with a door on set that was remedied during intermission, some mike cues that were missed, but I’m sure these will be quickly remedied and not affect future performances. My only real complaints with the show are minor. Jessica Lee was very beautiful as Hope and had an excellent singing voice. But the character of Hope lacked the spark that made me want believe that Billy would stowaway on an ocean liner to win her back. I cheered when the finale to the first act rolled around because we finally had a sparkling tap dance number. I wanted this to happen earlier and more often. The choreography, while done well, was less spectacular than I anticipated. And while the music as excellent, it lacked the syncopation that is a hallmark of Cole Porter songs, and seemed at times a little too straight. As I say, these are minor complaints and didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the show. CenterPoint Legacy Theatre has done an excellent job of bringing a classic hit, fresh from a Broadway revival to their stage.