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Theater Review: Anything Goes

David Ward’s production of Cole Porter’s classic musical/comedy “Anything Goes” is a rare jewel to encounter in present day. It’s amazing, really, to see talented young teenagers belting out Porter classics in 2018 and committing to the energetic shenanigans. Now playing at Seabury Hall, “Anything Goes” is a breezy throwback and a genuine charmer.

The plot offers traces of French door-slamming farce, in which a broker named Billy Crocker (played by Carl Molinero, in a thoroughly engaging performance) boards a ship full of oddball characters. Among the manifest includes Billy boss, Elisha (played by Danny Judge, giving a hearty comic turn), a nutty gangster named Moonface Martin (Gabe Frampton, who goes for broke) and an evangelist-turned nightclub singer named Reno Sweeney (Caitlyn Campbell, a total delight). They all come colliding together on a voyage of literal self discovery, though the story is second priority to the music. The zany plot involves murderers in hiding, love affairs, religious hypocrisy and hidden identities. Judge’s silent co-star is a dog wearing a Yale sweater. It’s that kind of show.

By the second act, the plot is spinning its wheels and the pleasures come from seeing the cast shine so brightly. Molinaro begins “De Lovely” with a disguised voice that cracked me up. However, his voice is actually stunning and he ably carries the show. Campbell taps into the crackling timing and presence of Mae West, which is no small achievement. Taylor Takitani gives a top notch comic turn as Irma, offering a hilarious interpretation of the role and knocking out her big second act number. Megan Malcolm is a hoot playing an American debutant and Carver Glomb taps into Tony Curtis with an impressively zany supporting turn. Glomb and Campbell make “The Gypsy in Me” a late-in-the-show winner.

Stefani Peterson is outstanding playing Evangeline Harcourt- her comic timing is razor sharp. There’s also a nicely deadpan performance by Dominic Carossa as the ship’s captain and Javi Frith gives a stylish turn as the bartender. The acting styles reflect 1930’s screwball comedies, as the cast embraces the inherent silliness and everyone owns their role.

Its best scenes (specifically “De-lovely,” “Bon Voyage,” “You’re the Top,””Blow Gabriel Blow” and the title number) are truly magical. Ward’s choreography is inventive, fluid and dynamic. The beautiful sets and lighting design by Todd Van Amburgh fully evoke the romanticism of the material. The striking costumes by Vanessa Cerrito and Andre Morrisette add quirk, color and beauty to the characterizations.

This is the last weekend to catch this production, with its spirited performances, rich visuals and wonderful musical numbers. It’s a true pleasure to hear Porter’s music and how it comments on society, then and now. Per the title song: “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was looked upon as something shocking but now, God knows, anything goes.”

Anything Goes is playing at Seabury Hall until Nov 18th. Tickets are available at the box office and seaburyhall.org.

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