Wednesday, March 4, 2015

reviews - ANYTHING GOES - Phoenix Theatre

"Anything Goes is full of screwy nonsense.  An ocean liner on its way from New York to London carries a cargo full of unlikely characters, all of whom carry their secrets and secret desires that will in one way or another be later revealed and changed by journey’s end.  The scenes play like a series of quick, lightning-paced vaudeville sketches sharing the common theme of an ocean liner where farcical characters race from one side of the stage to the other while opening and closing cabin doors, passing quick comments and exiting with punch-lines, all punctuated by classic Cole Porter songs and some terrific tap-dancing.  It takes a lot of work to make things look as though you’re having this much fun, and here the cast, everyone of them, from David Barker’s Elisha Whitney to Debby Rosenthal’s Reno Sweeney, appear to be having the time of their lives.  Director Harper draws on his years of experience as an actor and dancer.  With its razor-sharp timing throughout and its musical pulse of constant movement, the whole show is one song and dance, even when there’s no song and dance. Alan Ruch’s music arrangements are as sharp and as well timed as the performers.  Instead of a lush orchestration that backed the original production, the show uses big-band swing, a style that developed with the ’87 revival.  Plus, there’s something incredibly warm and comforting when hearing those famous Cole Porter tunes.  Savoring I Get a Kick Out Of You and You’re The Top sung not as a night club act but within the context of a musical with a narrative is such a treat; it’s like enjoying extra layers of the most delicious icing on an already loaded cake.  Two solo standouts are Trisha Hart Ditsworth’s delightful Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye and Lynzee Foreman’s bubbling good fun, Buddy, Beware.  Plus, the two big number dance numbers, Anything Goes and Blow Gabriel Blow have so much energy and razzle-dazzle to them, Busby Berkley would have been impressed. Watching a revival of Anything Goes, a light-hearted, old-fashioned musical comedy peppered with thirties pop tunes, is akin to experiencing a time capsule; it floats around in its own theatrical bubble, protected from the influences of modern themes and styles.  And with Harper at the helm, after seventy-five years, this Phoenix Theatre production appears fresher than ever.  Dare I say it?  Oh, what the heck; you knew it was coming.  It really is De-lovley." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"The classic musical Anything Goes is one of those shows that could put a smile on the face of even the saddest person. Not only does it have an infectious score by Cole Porter and a zany well written comical book but most productions feature an abundance of upbeat choreography that puts a cast through their paces and brings an infectious joy to an audience. Phoenix Theatre's current production is no exception, with some elaborate dance numbers, a vibrantly colorful and effective set, and a fairly talented cast. While Anything Goes is an ensemble piece, the focus is on Reno Sweeney, and Phoenix Theatre regular Debby Rosenthal makes a mostly good impression in the part. Her singing is refined, her comical line delivery winning, and she jumps right in with her younger costars in the exuberant and intricate dancing. I just wish she had a bit more zing and lift in her vocals and a drop more sexual razzle-dazzle in her overall character portrayal. As Reno's conniving cohort Billy Crocker, Jonathan Hoover has the right looks, demeanor, and style of early 1930s Manhattan and brings plenty of charm to the part, along with some lovely vocals that make an overall winning performance. Director Harper keeps the show moving along at a fast clip. Harper has also created a lively and varied assortment of choreography for the production. Design elements are excellent. Yoon Mae's ship deck set design is full of color, unlike most productions of this show that stick to standard white. The rich, vibrant color palette adds art deco hints throughout. Adriana Diaz's costume designs are sublime, period and character appropriate, and Mike Eddy's lighting is stunning, providing some especially lovely moments during the night scenes on the ship. While Anything Goes is a bit of a warhorse now when it comes to musical theatre, with very little new to bring to the now well-known plot, Phoenix Theatre's production is solid and colorful. You will leave the theatre with a big smile on your face and humming the many Porter hit songs as well as singing the praises of the talented cast." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"From the first bouncy notes of Phoenix Theatre’s exuberantly staged and smartly cast Anything Goes Cole Porter’s charmingly melodic 1934 show sparkles as it entertains mightily.  Director/choreographer Robert Kolby Harper wisely chose the musical’s 1987 Broadway version when the original book was sharpened to a more contemporary sensibility. Harper’s engaging Anything Goes contains spirited choreography including some rigorous tap routines while the show makes subtle but still telling commentary about the need for female equality. Several plot diversions never blur the always obvious conclusion but the splashy production numbers and fabulous Porter tunes make the journey a delight. Director/choreographer Harper has a field day splashing toe-tapping dances to accompany the songs and an exemplary cast does it all – singing, acting, and dancing – with stirring aplomb.  Playing Reno is Debby Rosenthal who sings with the lusty gusto and fervor reminiscent of the original Reno, Ethel Merman.  Rosenthal taps with precision as she leads the talented ensemble in several glowing production numbers.  As Billy, Jonathan Hoover dances with verve and sings impressively.  D. Scott Withers is appropriately hoity-toity as the uptight but sexually liberated Lord Oakleigh.  Jon Gentry is the lovable gangster Moonface and Gentry adds a deft comic touch to the show.  Trisha Hart Ditsworth is appropriately snotty as Hope while Christy Welty is refreshingly sincere as Hope’s addled but on-the-make mother, Evangeline.  A fancy ship is the show’s stylish setting and lush period attire completes the show’s elegant and sophisticated look.  It’s a shame that Alan Ruch’s spot-on orchestra isn’t seen and the loud sound system makes the show a bit shrill but you never miss a word. If diverting entertainment is what you want, you can’t go wrong with Phoenix Theatre’s snappy Anything Goes." -Chris Curcio, KBAQ (click here to read the complete review)

"Cole Porter's Anything Goes is one of only a handful of Broadway musicals from 1930s that hold up well enough to remain in regular rotation on the American stage, but you could hardly call this Jazz Age hit timeless. The music? Absolutely. As for the farcical story line, however, it's the definition of old hat. The saving grace of this show is the character of Reno Sweeney, a Christian evangelist who has turned her "mission" into a racy nightclub act. Her brass and sass, of course, surround a gentle heart of gold pining for true love. For contemporary audiences, "Anything Goes" lives or dies by its Reno Sweeney, and unfortunately, Phoenix Theatre's Debby Rosenthal doesn't quite deliver the goods. Oh, she has the pipes, no question, but her mannered delivery comes off more like a sweet schoolmarm than a speakeasy chanteuse. And although Rosenthal has a bright, confident voice, it doesn't really swing, and neither, it must be added, does the orchestra under musical director Alan Ruch. And if it doesn't swing, it's not jazz, and it's not Cole Porter. Indeed, the cast is all-around solid and the performances well-polished by director Robert Kolby Harper. But it's a paint-by-numbers production that looks pretty much the same as the Broadway tour that came through town in 2012, just without the same level of tap-dancing razzle-dazzle. To be fair, the full house at a recent matinee performance seemed perfectly pleased with the show. But if you're already seen "Anything Goes," this standard-issue version doesn't really offer a reason to see it again." -Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic (click here to read the complete review)

for more information on this production that runs through March 22nd, click here

Photo: Erin Evangeline Photography

1 comment:

  1. I saw this production & thought D. Scott Withers stole the show along with Jonathan Hoover who is terrific as Billy.The woman playing Reno is WAY too old & it's almost embarrassing watching her come on to Billy.I was hoping for a Sutton Foster type,I'd come again if they put the understudy in,she looks at least 20 yrs. younger