Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Anything Goes takes place on a ship sailing from New York to England, featuring a cast of characters involving mistaken identities, missionaries, gangsters, and romantic entanglements. With memorable songs like "You're the Top," "It's De-Lovely," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," and the title number, the show has been a staple in regional theatre for good reason.
Since its first Broadway production back in 1934, Anything Goes has been revised a number of times. The 1962 Off-Broadway production was the first to include such songs from other Porter shows as "Friendship" and "It's De-Lovely." In 1987 the show received an exceptional Broadway revival that made several changes to the original script, (the new witty book was co-written by the son of one of the original bookwriters) and incorporated additional songs from other Cole Porter scores. It's this version that Mesa Community College is presenting.
Catherine McCreary is excellent as Reno Sweeney, delivering refined singing, winning comedic timing, and enthusiastic dancing; her tap solos are wonderful. Her stage presence is infused with charm and she has a wonderful connection to all of her castmates. Christopher Gallacher portrays Billy Crocker with the right 1930s Manhattan style and charm which makes for a winning performance. While his vocals could be stronger, it's nice to see a production that features Billy in the dance numbers, and Gallacher has fun with those moments.
Jack Walton has exceptional comic timing as Moonface Martin, the public enemy disguised as a minister. His singing voice shines and he adds his own lovable touch to the character, making Moonface an audience favorite. Suzy Olson as Hope impresses with her soaring vocals and the ability to convey her character's conflicted feelings. José Andrés Uribe plays the slightly crazy foreigner engaged to Hope, offering a commanding stage presence and creating a lovable character. With bright acting choices, Logan Holmes fleshes out the usually stuffy Elisha Whitney, Billy's boss, into a comic gem. Natalie Ellis brings a brassy delivery and humor to the role of Erma, and Britney Burns is fun as the Hope's often-confused mother.
The rest of the ensemble create comical characters and deliver infectious dance routines, thanks to Lauran Stanis' inventive choreography. Also, McKay Moody and Alonzo Regalado's portrayals of the ship's frenzied captain and purser, respectively, add a nice touch to the production.
Director Debby Rosenthal, who played Reno in the 2015 Phoenix Theatre production of the show, keeps the musical moving at a brisk pace, using the ship's staircases and platforms and various other set pieces effectively in her staging. She gets bright, comical performances from everyone in the cast and the combination of Rosenthal's sure-footed direction and Stanis' exceptional choreography create many effective moments, including two spectacular numbers that start with just McCreary but then pull in the entire cast and build into showstoppers: "Anything Goes" and "Blow, Gabriel Blow."
The large ship deck set design and various other large set pieces by Kara Thompson work well with some nice art deco elements. The period and character-appropriate costumes are rentals, but they are colorful and smart, and Claude Pensis' lighting design creates some lovely stage images, especially during night scenes on the ship. Music director Darin Shryock and the large orchestra achieve a wonderful brassy sound.
Anything Goes may be a familiar show, but Mesa Community College offers a solid, colorful, bright, and very funny rendition of the beloved musical. Audiences can expect to leave the theater with smiles on their faces and Cole Porter's catchy tunes in their hearts. It's a jolly voyage that celebrates the timelessness of this classic musical.
Anything Goes runs through November 11, 2023, at the Mesa Community College Performing Arts Center, 1520 S Longmore, Mesa AZ. For tickets and information, please call 480-461-7172 or visit www.mesacc.edu/arts/events.
Director/Musical Staging: Debby Rosenthal
Cast: (in order of appearance)