If you saw the disappointing production of “Anything Goes” at the Williamstown Theatre Festival a few seasons ago, run, don’t walk, to Schenectady Light Opera’s production to see how it ought to be done. Because of advance ticket sales, the company has extended its run by a weekend and that’s as it should be.
Once you forgive the text of this decades-old show, the music by Cole Porter enthralls you, and you will leave the theater humming the tunes.
Director Eric Shovah shepherds his uniformly excellent cast through the story that begins as the S.S. American sails from New York to London. The long list of eccentric passengers includes the infamous Reno Sweeney, saloon singer turned evangelist, stylishly played by Laurie Burns, and a couple of criminals, Moonface Martin (Adam M. Coons) and his moll, Bonnie (Heather D’Arcy). Another mobster, Snake-eyes Johnson, is supposed to board but never does. His passport and ticket are appropriated by Billy Crocker (Michael C. Mensching). Crocker eventually becomes the ship’s hero because everyone thinks he is Public Enemy No. 1.
The plot revolves around getting the love interests, Crocker and Hope Harcourt (Casey Dinkin), and Reno and Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Robert Lamont Hegeman), together. It is complicated at times, even a bit silly, but there is skillful comic acting and the singing voices do credit to Porter’s lavish score.
Hegeman is most effective as the priggish English gentleman who is engaged to Hope but lusts after Reno. His comic bits, as he collects quirky American idioms in an ever-present notebook and then uses them incorrectly, are subtle and hilarious. Burns is slinky and sexy as Reno.
Dinkin, as Hope, is the soul of innocence and, well, hope as she pairs with Mensching in the haunting “All Through the Night.” Mensching, for his part, offers energy and fluent comic timing as Billy. His resonant singing voice is most apparent in numbers such as “You’re the Top” and “It’s Delovely.” Coons as Moonface is a joy to watch as the mobster who is public enemy no. 13 and aspires to be number 6 or 7, and D’Arcy as his moll is ditzy and delightfully shrewd. D’Arcy shows off her skills as a choreographer in an a cappella tap dance that brought spontaneous applause.
Rita Russell, as Mrs. Harcourt, knows her way around a comic line and surprises with an energetic turn in a tap number. She is wonderful. Bill Hickman, as Eli Whitney, Crocker’s mercurial employer, weaves his way, champagne glass firmly in hand, about the ship with comic skill.
Costumes by Connie Rowe Rauhauser are gorgeous. This show is a must-see!
More from The Daily Gazette: