‘Anything Goes’ gets NSMT off to a de-lovely start
BEVERLY — “Anything Goes” gets the North Shore Music Theatre 2014 season off to a delightful, de-lovely start with the music of Cole Porter and the stunning choreography of Michael Lichtefeld.
“Anything Goes” offers high-spirited singing and dancing and hilarious hijinks on the high seas at the Beverly theater through June 15.
The knockout musical numbers come rolling off an assembly line from a composer by the name of Cole Porter — I think he might have a future in this business. They include: “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You‘re the Top,” “Easy to Love,” “It‘s De-Lovely,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and, of course the title tune, and you’ll be tapping your foot along with the music and the wonderfully witty lyrics that Porter was renowned for.
Various revivals of the show have featured different configurations of songs, and songs have been added or subtracted from various versions, but you’re still dealing from a deck that’s all aces.
The original 1934 book was a collaborative effort by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, heavily revised by the team of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, and then revised again by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman
It was a time when Americans were looking for something — anything — that could distract them from the hardships of the Great Depression, so many movies or plays were upbeat and aiming for pure escapism, the more carefree the better.
The action takes place on the S.S. American cruise ship leaving New York Harbor. Evangelist-turned-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Danette Holden), who entertains on the ship, has been chasing Wall Street stockbroker Billy Crocker (Eric Ulloa) for the longest time, but he is bedazzled by ingenue Hope Harcourt (Alessa Neeck).
Billy is enlisted by his eternally-besotted boss Eli Whitney (Tom Gleadow) a Yale man times 10 (and the rare instance of a name that’s a double-pun) to go off to Wall Street and dump off a stock Eli’s been tipped is about to crash.
He, of course, never gets off the boat and ends up being a stowaway. Chaos ensues — Billy is eventually mistaken for a gangster — but all will eventually be wrapped in a neat bow.
It all requires strong comedic chops, and luckily “Anything Goes’ is replete with old pros who know what to do when given their cue.
Michael Mastro leads the way as clueless English nobleman Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, scheduled to be married to the aforementioned Hope to bail the Harcourt family out of its perilous financial straits.
Sir Evelyn is a hilarious Mr. Malaprop when it comes to American slang and constantly finds himself in compromising positions.
Revere native Susan Cella is a hoot as Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt, the gold-digging mother of Hope, the now-broke debutante, who is pushing her daughter to marry Evelyn.
David Scott Purdy stepped in for Eddie Mekka, who was forced to leave the show due to a family emergency, and is a delight as Moonface Martin, the gangster — Public Enemy No. 13, to be sure — who hijacks the identity of a clergyman on board, turns his infamy into celebrity and allies with Billy in his quest for Hope.
Director Charles Repole directed a well-received production of “Las Cage aux Folles” at NSMT last season, and here has honed the comic timing of his ensemble to a razor’s point , and Lichtefeld has proven he is a a superb choreographer time and time again at NSMT, and this time is no exception.
The nonpareil Porter score is artfully performed by an orchestra led by Milton Granger.
“Anything Goes” Is the perfect spring musical. Forget your troubles and take a cruise on the S.S. American to musical theater bliss.
The North Shore Music Theatre production of “Anything Goes.” Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, Original book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. Directed by Charles Repole. Choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld. Music direction by Milton Granger. Scenic design by Bert Scott. Costume design by Paula Peasley-Ninestein. Lighting design by Martin E. Vreeland (Lighting Designer). Sound design by Benjamin Furiga. Wig and Hair design by Gerard Kelly. Through June 15. http://www.nsmt.org