Rosemary Laughlin/review: Revved-up 'Anything Goes' will make you smile

Rosemary Laughlin/review: Revved-up 'Anything Goes' will make you smile


Cole Porter once described Ethel Merman's voice as "a parade going by." The phrase is a good one to summarize the performance of his songs at the Parkland Theatre presentation of "Anything Goes."

The hit "I Get a Kick Out of You" is a fine choice for leadoff. It is sung by J. Malia Andrus, beautifully cast as Reno Sweeney, the nightclub singer. Andrus is a look-alike for the 1930s film star Carole Lombard, with carefully coiffed blonde hair, slender svelte figure, sexy satin gowns, flowing wide-legged pants and leisure shorts.

It should be said right away that the costumes designed by Sheri Doyle are a major pleasure in the visual show. The girls get the shimmering colors, beads, fringes and textures, but the men are elegant in tuxedos or charming in American and French sailor suits.

The play moves slowly in the beginning. The plot is ridiculously contrived. Expect neither psychological or moral insight. One notes the credits for "book" given to six authors and recalls the adage about too many chefs in the kitchen.

Playing a minor character, David Heckman as Elisha Whitney injects sparkle with his "Yalie" caricature.

Jeff Dare as Moonface Martin picks up the spark. He is a gangster incongruously dressed in a French priest's caped cassock belted with a gold-sequined sash. Dare's clowning presence enlivens all his scenes.

Jake Smith as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, the shy, reluctant bridegroom, won my attention with a superb, stuffy British accent and a collection of Americanisms. He uses them cleverly: smooch, step on it, clinch, hot pants. He is anything but stuffy when he later recognizes whom he really loves and sings it convincingly to Reno in "The Gypsy in Me," while dancing up and down the deck stairs.

"It's De-lovely" is perhaps Porter's best-known song. It is sung delightfully by Abby Gailey as Hope Harcourt and Ray Essick, who plays the "broken-down broker" Billy Crocker. Director Julia Megan Sullivan made an excellent decision to have them tap dance a waltz through it. This injects a vitality that the play needs.

Andrus and the full chorus of sailors, crew and passengers conclude the first act singing "Anything Goes." Their accompanying tap dancing is terrific. Full unison is excellent, as are several exhibitions of Charleston and Swing steps. The latter includes the acrobatic through-the-legs move done by Essick and his partner.

Choreography is created by Tanya Picard. Featured dancers Pete Barrett, Tyler Cook, Megan Cott, Alina Loewenstein, Sarah Rosenberg, Ethan Smith and Susan Zielke add their lithe abilities.

During intermission, I saw a group of teens in a side hall humming "Anything Goes" and tapping a few moves.

The revved-up pace continues in the second act. Pretending to be an evangelist, Reno Sweeney leads a gospel rendition of "Blow, Gabriel, Blow." Andrus does herself proud.

Singing and dancing are vigorous. The cast clearly enjoy themselves, and I noted smiles on faces of audience around me.

Tafadzwa Diener as the gangster moll conveys pure fun as she belts out "Buddie Beware!" to the sailors. She is sassy, jazzy and filled with lan as she dances about, teasing them.

Andrus and Smith add yet another dance form in a tango one would expect from the likes of her, but not him. By this time Lord Oakleigh's timidity is entirely gone.

The stage set designed by Molly Ilten-Fullan is the front of an ocean-going cruise ship. A deck is atop. The prow cleverly opens to reveal two staterooms side by side.

At all times, the nine-piece orchestra conducted by Justin M. Brauer is both lively and smooth. It is notably just right for volume and is a model of accompaniment. It never overwhelms the singers, who use microphones for solos. Sound designer Brian D. Morgan is to be additionally complimented.

The line for tickets was long on opening night. Parkland's Harold and Jean Miner Theater was full. The audience was responsive. Clearly "Anything Goes" goes!

Rosemary Laughlin is a retired English teacher from University Laboratory High School.

If you go

What: Parkland Theatre presents "Anything Goes," with music and lyrics by Cole Porter. Directed by Julia Megan Sullivan.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, April 21-22 and 3 p.m. April 23.

Where: Harold and Jean Miner Theatre, Parkland College, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., C.

Running time: 2 1/2 hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Tickets: $16, adults; $14, senior citizens and students; $10, youths; and $12 for groups of 15 or more.

Reservations: email or call 351-2528.

Extra: Dinner event, 6 p.m. Friday, $30 covers the cost of dinner and the performance. Limited seating; call 351-2528. Dinner provided by Parkland hospitality program.


Topics (1):Theater