Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Anything Goes
Magic Theatre

Also see Richard's reviews of Love and Information, This Golden State - Part One: Delano and Choir Boy, Patrick's review of Eddie Izzard: Force Majeure and Eddie's review of Chinglish


Molly Bell and Joshua Hollister
Center Repertory Theatre of Walnut Creek is in the last week of a terrific production of Cole Porter's Anything Goes. My love for this classic musical goes back to 1962 when I first saw the Off Broadway revival at the Orpheum Theatre in New York with Eileen Rodgers playing Reno Sweeney. I have since seen productions with Rachel York, Patti LuPone, and Sutton Foster playing Reno. The show dates back to 1934, when it opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre. This production, under the direction of Michael Butler with dynamic choreography by Amanda Folena, ranks with the best I've seen.

Where else can you hear the dazzling score that contains such standards as "I Get a Kick Out of You", "You're the Top," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow", "Friendship," "Anything Goes," and "It's De-Lovely"?

Yes, the plot is sublimely silly and cleverly rebellious but it sure packs a feel-good punch. The 1934 zingers are dated one-liners that have been spiffed up and still get laughs. What makes this musical exciting is the singing and pulsating, boundless dancing, culminating in the ensemble tap dancing to the title song to close the first act. During intermission the audience is on a high from those high-stepping guys and gals.

Molly Bell is sensational as Reno Sweeney. She makes the role her own with her blithe, jazzy original phrasing. She belts, taps, waltzes, and makes "You're the Top" and "I Get a Kick Out of You" exciting. She blows the audience away with a sumptuous dance number built around the song "Blow, Gabriel, Blow."

Joshua Hollister gives an impressive performance as Billy Crocker. This charismatic leading man displays fine singing chops on "It's De-lovely," "You're the Top," and the sublime "All Through the Night." Brittany Danielle is beautiful as Hope Harcourt, Billy's love interest; with her pleasing voice she is pitch perfect singing "Easy to Love" and "It's De-lovely." Lynda DiVito gives a first rate performance as Hope's mother.

Playing Sir Evelyn, an English aristocrat in love with American slang, Jeffrey Draper makes a perfect upper-class twit with an up market English accent. He also pleasantly sings "The Gypsy in Me." Lizzie O'Hara is captivating as the sailor-chasing gangster's moll while Colin Thompson gives a flawless performance as the gangster Moonface Martin. He shines the brightest singing "Be Like a Bluebird" and "Friendship." Michael Patrick Gaffney playing nearsighted Wall Street tycoon Elisha J. Whitney brings an enjoyable lightheadedness to a lustful but foolishly immature aging person. R. Martin Newton gives good account of himself as the Captain while Nathaniel Rothrock is perfect as the Purser. He also shows great moves when dancing.

The rest of the cast in small roles of sailors and passengers include Justin Travis Buchs, Ryan Cowles, Ariel Daly, Caleb Haven Draper, Jenna Harris, Mary Kalita, Christine Macomber, Scott Maraj, Neal Pascua, Jason Rehklau, Anthony Rollins-Mullens, Amanda Sylvia and Michael Verzosa. They are fantastic both in the singing and dancing.

Credit also goes to musical director Brandon Adams and his fine ten-piece orchestra playing the Cole Porter gems. This is also a swell looking production, with Michael Locher's multilevel ocean liner and snug compartment on a center revolving set with art deco style. Victoria Livingston-Hall's costumes are strictly 1930s dazzling wear and Kurt Landisman's lighting casts a moonlit radiance on many of the numbers and bright shining lights in "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and the title song. Bravo to Michael Butler for giving the audience a terrific, tuneful production.

Anything Goes runs through Saturday June 27th, 2015, at the Dean Lesher Performing Arts Center, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. For tickets and information visit www.centerrep.org or called 925-943-SHOW.


Photo: www.kevinberne.com

- Richard Connema


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