'Anything Goes' is holiday delight

Cole Porter classic on stage in Littleton

Posted 11/19/14

“Anything Goes” is a floating farce — aboard a 1930s ocean liner, bound for England.

The overture sets the mood at Littleton's Town Hall Arts Center as the live band ranges through a bouncy set of familiar Cole Porter tunes, then lights go …

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'Anything Goes' is holiday delight

Cole Porter classic on stage in Littleton

Posted

“Anything Goes” is a floating farce — aboard a 1930s ocean liner, bound for England.

The overture sets the mood at Littleton's Town Hall Arts Center as the live band ranges through a bouncy set of familiar Cole Porter tunes, then lights go up on a 1930s New York City bar where we get acquainted with Billy Crocker (Zach Stailey), Reno Sweeney (Norrell Moore) and wealthy, loyal Yale alum Elisha Whitney (Ed Hickock).

“I Get a Kick Out of You” is Reno's first song, and we recognized an experienced performer in Moore, who sings and dances her way through this show with warmth and skill.

The usually tipsy Whitney urges Reno to come to London with him, and Reno, who is interested in Crocker, Whitney's less-than-efficient assistant, agrees. She appears with her four “Angels,” aka sexy backup singers.

Billy, who came to bid Whitney goodbye, discovers that a woman he loves from afar, Hope Harcourt (Allison Mueller), is coming on board with her rich British fiance, Lord Evelyn Oakley (a bright-eyed Robert Janzen) — and her ditzy mom.

Janzen's custom of collecting American slang is an entertaining extra bit, as is his solo, “The Gypsy in Me.”

Billy, thinking he might have a chance to woo Hope, stows away and soon gets acquainted with another stowaway, “Public Enemy Number 13,” Moonface Martin (the comical Mark Shonsey), who is disguised as a priest. Martin happens to have a passport for Scarface Johnson, “Public Enemy Number 1,” who somehow got left behind … and gives it to Billy.

If this sound like a farce, that's because it is supposed to — and we continue through a delightful two hours of disguises, mistaken identities, romance and comedy, with Porter's wonderful score, which is somewhat updated, as is the libretto, from a 2011 Broadway revival.

Particular compliments to costume designer Nikki Harrison, who found vintage dresses and accessories that add a really fine look to the scenes.

Michael Duran's set works smoothly.

And, kudos to music director Donna Debreceni's band, which adds joy to the season.
Veteran director Nick Sugar, in his ninth season at Town Hall, is expert at pulling off these musicals with lots of dance numbers, so they look effortless. He called on Kelly Kates to be co-choreographer with him, and the tap numbers, a trademark feature of this show, really shine.

One can just sit and smile, feeling no stress, despite some complicated situations. This is a celebration of theater and musicals, altogether appropriate for a holiday treat.

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