Set sail to Goodspeed where ‘Anything Goes’
When a celebrated singer, a public enemy, gangsters, and a minister set sail on the same ship, then excitement is bound to ride high on the tide of entertainment at the Goodspeed Opera House. Currently on the boards of the Opera House is a rousing production of Anything Goes, featuring Cole Porter’s magnificent score. What is so exceptional about this fun-filled show is that there isn’t one dud of a song. Porter really made this musical unsinkable with songs like I Get a Kick Out of You, Bon Voyage, You’re the Top, Blow, Gabriel, Blow and the title song.
Director Daniel Goldstein keeps the professional cast on a steady course with great acting, strong vocals, and fine dancing. With musical director Michael O’Flaherty, a longtime conductor at the theater who never missed a note in his 25 years here, and choreographer Kelli Barclay, the S.S. Goodspeed ships off with plenty of expertise — and it shows.
Rashidra Scott launches another memorable characterization with her lead role as Reno Sweeney. She already has a list of Broadway and regional theater credits too numerous to list here. Scott is sometimes sassy, always sexy, and sensationally talented as Reno. Though not the first African American to land this deliciously salty role, she certainly leaves her signature on it with a crystal clear voice with a twinge of Whitney Houston. David Harris as Billy is charm personified and Hannah Florence as Billy’s dream girl Hope is just the kind of girl a guy wants to take back to home on shore.
The simple storyline focuses on a guy (Billy) who is so in love with his gal (Hope), that he stays aboard the ship when he learns she is on it. In spite of the fact that his boss expected him to return to shore to take care of the bigwig’s investments, Billy stays behind as a stowaway. His good friend, singer, Reno Sweeney helps him out by not giving him away when he takes on a surprising disguise.
All the major characters are performed quite well including Kingsley Leggs, Denise Lute, Jay Aubrey Jones, Patrick Richwood, and Benjamin Howes. The ensemble is equally terrific. However, it is Stephen DeRosa who practically steals the show as Moonface, the head gangster. He is so funny that it’s impossible not to laugh out loud whenever he is on the stage. If the revised book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman featured more of Moonface, then DeRosa would have stolen the show. As it is, the audience cheers for all the actors during curtain call. The volume of the cheering gets louder with the actors the audience especially liked. Not surprisingly, DeRosa got the biggest and noisiest applause.
Wilson Chin’s set design is such a realistic and expansive rendering of a ship’s deck, that the audience could almost feel as though they are on the ship. That’s due in large part to the clever apron added onto the short and shallow stage. The apron allows the action to come closer to the audience and it puts the orchestra on the upper deck. Ilona Somogyi’s costumes for Reno are terrific, but the gals in the sailor suits with a giant sized anchor patched onto nude colored tops are distracting at best. Brian Tovar’s lighting and Jay Hilton’s sound designs work very well.
Overall, this is a wonderful production of a grand old musical. It plays through June 16. Box office: 860-873-8668
Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org