Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The show takes place on a ship sailing to England with various characters on board, plus mistaken identities, Chinese missionaries, gangsters, romantic possibilities, and a non-stop parade of witty banter and clever jokes. Including such well-known Porter songs as "You're the Top," "It's De-Lovely," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and the title song, and set around a very funny book, it's understandable why the show has been revived so many times on Broadway and is a staple for theatre companies across the country.
Anything Goes has been revived and revised several times since its first Broadway production in 1934. Songs have been removed and other songs added in from other Porter scores. The 1962 Off-Broadway revival was the first to include such Porter classics as "Friendship" and "It's De-Lovely," while the 1987 revival dropped some of the songs from the '62 revival and featured a new book co-written by the son of one of the original bookwriters. The 1987 version seems to be the one most produced, including having just been presented last season at Phoenix Theatre, so it's a welcome change that Hale is producing the 1962 version of the show, as it's the only one to include the two Porter gems "Take Me Back to Manhattan" and "Let's Misbehave."
While Anything Goes is basically an ensemble production, the "headliner" on the boat is Reno Sweeney and her character features into many of the other characters' plots. She also sings many of the score's biggest songs, including the title number. Emily Giauque Evans has the right look and style for the role of this sexy, sassy, and intelligent woman. Evans also has a beautiful and rich voice and exceptional dance skills that she shows off throughout the show, with James also incorporating her beautifully into many of the big dance numbers. Her style of speech and of singing also evoke a period accent and demeanor that works well for the 1930s time period.
James D. Gish plays Billy Crocker, the romantic lead, and he is playful in the part, with a huge dose of boyish charm and exceptional vocals. As Moonface Martin, the comical public enemy who is disguised as a minister so as to not get caught, Geoffrey Goorin is extremely fun to watch. He evokes a thick as molasses "Yonkers, New York" accent that is hilarious, yet charming, and is gifted in ensuring his comic bits land. He also does well with the singing and dancing the role requires. Goorin is simply lovable in the part.
As Hope, the woman Billy is in love with, Jacqueline Brecker is sweet yet also effective in showing that some of Billy's actions are upsetting to her. She and Gish share some lovely romantic duets. Ben Mason is Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, Hope's slightly crazy English fiancé. Mason exhibits perfect manners and a crisp British accent, delivering a charming portrayal with a winning stage presence full of funny moments. As Moonface's friend Bonnie, Harley Barton is brassy and direct, instilling the part with a "know it all" sensibility. She also adds plenty of zing to her musical numbers. Laura Soldan is deliciously droll as Hope's mother, and Mark Kleinman is funny as the confused and almost always drunk Elisha Whitney, Billy's boss.
Director and choreographer Cambrian James keeps the show moving along at a fun and fast clip, with the comedy bits fresh and the song and dance numbers lively. His choreography features varied steps, including an abundance of tap which the large cast excels at delivering. Design elements are excellent, with Mary Atkinson's stunning costumes and Jeff A. Davis' vibrant and evocative lighting painting the stage in lush blue shades for the night scenes on the ship and bright colors for the daytime moments. Elizabeth Spencer's musical direction achieves lovely, lush sounds from the large cast.
A humorous and romantic romp featuring some of Cole Porter's best known songs, Anything Goes is one of the most well known and beloved classic musical comedies. Hale Centre Theatre's production features a stellar cast and solid and fun direction and choreography.
The Hale Centre Theatre production of Anything Goes runs through April 2nd, 2016, with performances at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert, Arizona. Tickets can be ordered at www.haletheatrearizona.com or by calling 480-497-1181.
Music & Lyrics Cole Porter
Directed and Choreographed by Cambrian James