Mac-Haydn Theatre has another hit on its hands with its production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes.”
Audiences have been forgiving this trite script for over seven decades. Why? Because Porter’s brilliant music and lyrics transcend even the silliest of plots. With songs like “You’re the Top,” “It’s Delovely,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You,” the show has a timeless appeal. And the production at Mac-Haydn seems to plug up the gaping holes in the text with energy, talent and a sea of enthusiasm.
The story begins on the deck of the S.S. American, an ocean liner sailing from New York to London. The roster of eccentric characters who board include a British aristocrat, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Kevin Gardner), Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin (Kevin Kelley) and his moll Bonnie (Andrea Doto), and the glorious, notorious Reno Sweeney (Karla Shook). Sweeney is an evangelist turned nightclub owner, so you might be able to guess where that character is headed. Another mobster, Snake-eyes Johnson, is supposed to come on board but never does. His ticket is appropriated by Billy Crocker (Andy Geary). Under this guise, Crocker eventually becomes the ship’s hero because everyone thinks he’s Public Enemy #1.
The plot revolves around getting the love interests, Crocker and Hope Harcourt (Sarah Pigion) and Reno and Sir Evelyn, together. It gets a bit complicated at times, but director and choreographer Kelly Shook shepherds her uniformly gifted cast through the rocky shoals with skill and lots of humor.
Gardner shows a mastery of comic acting as the priggish English gentleman who delights in noting quirky American expressions and then using them incorrectly. He is engaged to Hope but lusts after Reno. Shook as the slinky, sexy Reno displays fine comic timing. Her singing voice, however, could be a bit more nuanced, especially in the “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” number, which offers a singer so much opportunity for variety. Geary is innocent and hilariously intrepid as he dons a number of disguises in order to get close to his love, Hope. Kelley, as Moonface, resonates comically as the gangster who is Public Enemy #13, but aspires to become #6 or even #7. But the hit of the show is the darling gamine, Andrea Doto. She takes on the thankless role of Bonnie, the gangster’s moll, and makes it a memorable star-turn.
Carol Charniga, as Mrs. Harcourt, Hope’s social-climbing mother, knows her way around a comic line and surprises with some energetic tap dancing.
In fact, the ensemble tapping is superlative, and director/choreographer Shook manages to showcase the talents of each of her large cast. Ryan Van Den Boom, as the Purser, has a tap solo, which he choreographed, that gave the packed house on opening day the opportunity for a spontaneous round of applause.
Costume design by Jimm Halliday is gorgeously nautical with lots and lots — and lots — of red, white and blue.