"Anything Goes," at SCERA Showhouse
by Eric D. Snider
Published on January 13, 2002
If you want great jokes, deep characters and social importance, keep looking. If you want a few laughs, terrific songs and high spirits, check out "Anything Goes," the entertaining, delightfully useless musical now at the SCERA Showhouse.
The show takes place in the 1930s (when it originally was staged) on a ship bound for England. On board are a number of characters who will mix and match and leave each other and find other people.
First there is Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Doug Zaugg), a stuffy Brit engaged to the beauteous Hope Harcourt (Emily Hecker), mostly at the encouragement of her matronly mother (Tina Barnes). Hope runs into Billy (Chad Mortensen), a dirt-poor, resourceful fellow she once had a fling with. Billy allies himself with Moonface Martin (Andrew Lloyd Hunsaker), a gangster who's hiding out and who helps Billy disguise himself to avoid being caught by the ship's crew, who would soon discover he doesn't have a ticket.
Then there is Reno Sweeney (Laura Whipple), a nightclub singer and one-time preacher (yes, that's right) who's good pals with Billy and who starts to take an interest in the bookish Sir Evelyn.
The show centers around Cole Porter's charming and witty songs; the plot sort of hangs off them loosely, not wanting to detract attention from the show's best assets. The songs are well-sung by the enthusiastic cast; Laura Whipple and Chat Mortensen in particular have beautiful voices, and the lumbering Andrew Hunsaker gets many laughs in his "Be Like the Bluebird" number. The three of them also do justice to "Friendship," one of Porter's liveliest songs.
Doug Zaugg is impressively committed to a character who is written to be such a caricature, he could easily become tiresome. As Zaugg portrays him, though, Evelyn becomes more entertaining as the evening wears on.
Also worthy of mention is Celesta Rimington as Moonface's squeaky girlfriend Bonnie. Her "Heaven Hop" and "Let's Step Out" numbers are vivaciously performed.
This is a show that doesn't add up to much; there's not much conflict in the story, and I don't believe anyone learns anything, least of all the audience. Seen strictly as goofy entertainment, though, it fulfills its purpose well enough. I do wish some of the jokes in the very jokey script were handled with a little more panache and comic timing, and that the ensemble were stronger -- but these turn out to be non-fatal flaws.
Should you go? For simple, giddy amusement with some great musical numbers, this one's the top.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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