REVIEW: All aboard for the awesome “Anything Goes”

Mar. 20, 2013 @ 02:35 PM

Set sail with “Anything Goes” for a fantastic voyage with the best of 1930s comedy, music, costumes and acting. Of the dozens of Broadway musicals that have been performed on stage at the Durham Performing Arts Center since it opened more than four years ago, “Anything Goes” is in the top tier.

Truly, it is an audience pleaser. You know the laugh tracks that television sitcoms used with laughter so enthusiastic it didn’t seem real? That’s how the genuine laughter sounded during opening night on Tuesday. The show is at DPAC through Sunday.

The sparkly dresses, the high jinks, the lively musical numbers of films of the era gave audiences during the Great Depression an escape from their Hooverville reality. The core elements of what made for a hit then – Cole Porter songs, comedic timing, actors with flair and voices to envy – are all in this production.

The best, most impressive number is the tap-dancing, orchestra showcasing “Anything Goes” that closes out the first act. It was one of many songs that lead actress Rachel York as Reno Sweeney hit out of the park. York is delightful. Seeing what she and the rest of the cast – plus a crew of sailors – can do with tap shoes and song, it’s a wonder this kind of performance isn’t done more often in today’s musicals. Everything about this show works.

Opposite York as Reno is Josh Franklin as Billy Crocker, giving the show its debonair leading man. Their duet of “You’re the Top” is entertaining and amusing, with lines following “You’re the…” including “cellophane” and “Waldorf salad.” Reno wants Billy, but Billy wants the sweet Hope Harcourt (Alex Finke) who is engaged to the amusing Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Edward Staudenmayer). Toss in Billy’s boss, the wealthy Yale man Elisha Whitney (Dennis Kelly), the undercover mobster Moonface Martin (Fred Applegate) and Moonface’s moll, Erma (Joyce Chittick). Chittick is hilarious and fun and has a spectacular voice. Applegate as Moonface is also a contender for stealing the show.

The ship set showcases the talent of everyone involved. If only cruises today involved less risk of clogged plumbing and more chances of glamorous style and attractive sailors dancing on deck.

 If Broadway tours gave cast and crew bonus checks, then they all deserve one for, to use a decidedly modern phrase, “bringing it.”

Now, for the orchestra. The music, oh the music. Cole Porter’s songs are classics for a reason. But the execution matters, and the “Anything Goes” orchestra and DPAC orchestra really put on a show. All the audience could see was the captain-hatted conductor at the start of the show, but we could certainly hear their talented performance. The conductors, music coordinator and drummer travel with the tour, but local musicians were on reeds, trumpets, trombones, bass, guitar, percussion and keyboard. What a talented crew there is on board for “Anything Goes” at DPAC. Go see it.