The stellar cast is lead by Melinda Parrett, whose pitch-perfect performance as the 1930’s night club evangelist Reno Sweeney is full of so much moxie and finely-honed talent, Ethel Merman, the all-time queen of musical comedy who originated the role on Broadway in 1934, would have to call it nothing short of delightful.
Parrett walks on stage with the presence and carriage of a star and the look of one who just stepped off a time machine from Metro-Goldwyn Mayer central casting circa 1934. Her sexy, funny, luminous air combined with an aw-shucks attitude and moments of vulnerability are the perfect companion to her giant voice that outshine the brass of the expertly executed pit orchestra.
Her voice and persona are only matched by the opulent, jaw-dropping costumes designer K.L. Alberts created for the sassy Sweeny.
The production is true to its 1930’s roots in almost every way and yet has nothing of the canned feeling of a cheap replica. The whole production shines and pops with an effervescent authenticity and is, ultimately, a well-written and almost faultlessly executed love letter to Cole Porter’s standard of escapist 1930’s musical entertainment.
The formulaic and willfully silly plot of love, mistaken identity and celebrity chasing on the high-seas of an upscale cruise liner are just happy segways to the next knockout musical numbers which are sure to absolutely wow audiences all summer.
Possibly the most amazing and satisfying aspect of this production is that each and every actor plays his or her role with such dedication, perfection and apparent pleasure in the material.
The play is filled with caricature-stereotypes of the 1930’s from gangsters to debutants, ivy-league stockbrokers to hoofing sailors, and each one hits a delicious bulls-eye. Seven soloists offer the audience a rousing, gorgeous and outright perfect addition to the show.
Elizabeth Telford as debutant Hope Harcourt and would-be suitor Robert Adelman Hancock as Billy Crocker who stows away on the ship to win her hand, boast a warm and believable on-stage chemistry and fine execution of Rhett Guter’s lovely and romantic choreography. Hancock sports a voice right out of the 30s – the love child of Cole Porter, Gene Kelley and Al Jolson.
Cate Cozzens dazzles the audience with sass and New Yawk accent as a sailor-chasing gangster’s moll who almost stops the show with her giant voice and personality, and Max Robinson shows off his impressive range and charisma as gangster Moonface Martin.
Mindy B. Young as Evangeline Harcourt and Joe Vincent as the near-sighted successful stockbroker Elisha Whitney, are delightful additions to the production and add a certain grace and experience to the whole show.
Guter also delivers as both a choreographer and lead dancer in the rousing and exuberant chorus and tap numbers. Guter and fellow dancing sailor Steven Rada rock the high-energy choreography with graceful and energetic stage presence and skill.
Aaron Galligan-Stierle is a treat playing an English Lord betrothed to Hope Harcourt whose misunderstanding of American slang makes yet another perfect addition to the show.
In essence, Director Brad Carroll gives the rare gift of nostalgia underscored with authenticity without any of the bottled feeling of passe, over worked or overdone. Carroll and his production are “the moon over Mae West’s shoulder” and it has never shone brighter.
“Anything Goes” runs only through the summer season and half-price tickets are available Monday through Thursday for locals on the day of performance. For more information visit www.bard.org.