"Anything Goes," at Payson Community Theatre
by Eric D. Snider
Published on September 1, 2000
Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" is a fine piece of Americana, a musical farce with no purpose other than to entertain, with fantastic songs, mistaken identities and general mayhem set aboard a cruise ship.
Payson Community Theatre's production of it, directed by David C. Dahlquist, has all the full-boar earnestness you'd expect from a community effort, but lacks the punch of what should be a fast-paced comedy. Lines that should be wry or sarcastic are coming out wide-eyed and broad -- over-selling the joke, in other words, which is the worst thing you can do to a joke.
In Monday's performance, there was a noticeable lag in the pacing, too, with far too much silence between lines. Improving that, and the comic timing in general, would help a lot.
Which isn't to say the show isn't entertaining, because it certainly is. The plot (which one is encouraged to ignore and just enjoy the show) has Hope Harcourt (Kellie Staheli) sailing to England, where she's supposed to marry the wealthy Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Gary Thurston), mostly at the request of her dour mother (Ardis Leatham).
While onboard, Hope runs into Billy Crocker (Chris Kaletta), with whom she once had an association. Their romance is rekindled, hampered only by the fact that Billy is using the ticket and passport of Public Enemy No. 1 and as such has to keep in hiding. He's aided in this by Public Enemy No. 13, Moonface Martin (Ben Jacobs), who is onboard disguised as a priest.
Meanwhile, there's nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Berty Morgan), who wants to help Billy get Hope, and therefore offers herself to the sweet-natured, naive Sir Evelyn.
The songs really are the highlight here, written in that grand old fashion that doesn't happen much anymore, full of intricate rhymes and infectious melodies. Molly Mangelson's choreography is crisp, and the live orchestra sounds great, though it occasionally overpowers the fantastic singing voices of the cast members.
Laura Money, as Moonface's moll, Bonnie, shows preternatural talent when she takes center stage to sing "Heaven Hop" and "Let's Step Out" -- two songs that are more or less unnecessary, but which give Money a chance to show off her singing, dancing and abundant charisma.
Ben Jacobs is funny as Moonface, a mediocre mobster who wants to solve every problem by killing someone. (I've had days like that, too.) And Chris Kaletta, Kellie Staheli and Berty Morgan all perform admirably well in their respective roles.
A little more work on the timing, and this would be a great show. As it stands, it's good, and well worth watching. "Anything Goes" doesn't get produced very often, so see this one while you have the chance.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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