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Everything goes with EPAC’s latest
MICHAEL C. UPTON
Record Express Correspondent
I have to admit, for most of my life everything I knew about the musical “Anything Goes” I learned from Indiana Jones. (Remember the beginning of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” when the lovely Kate Capshaw sings “Anything Goes” in Mandarin?)
So, I went into the Dec. 6 opening of EPAC’s rendition of the Cole Porter musical without any preconceived expectations. By the end of the show my eyes were wide open and my cheeks literally hurt from smiling and laughing.
When we meet our nightclub singer-heroine, Reno (played by Liz Frank), she is planning to depart New York City for London. The apple of her eye, the wet-behind-the-ears stock broker Billy (played by Sean Deffley), doesn’t quite get the hints in the opening musical number, “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Maybe the two are just meant to be good friends. Billy’s eyes are on Hope (played by the vocally talented Valerie Schulz) who is headed across the pond and will be married at sea to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (played by Darren Wagner). Add a pinch of mistaken identity, an eager crew of sailors, and a slew of temperamental passengers and the cruise liner turns into a rollicking vessel of hilarity.
“Anything Goes” first premiered in 1934 and has undergone several Broadway revivals. The musical features many memorable songs like “Bon Voyage,” “Easy to Love,” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” But what sticks out the most is the perfect mixture of intelligent and slapstick comedy.
Leading the humor is John Kleimo who plays an often inebriated Eli Whitney. Kleimo stumbles and bumbles his way around the stage — in a good way — as his character reveals more of himself than he would like to admit. The biggest catalyst for the comedy of errors is Moonface (played by Bob Checchia). Checchia plays the atypical gangster thug, portraying a mix ignorance and over-escalated testosterone to drive his scenes. Moonface, as public enemy number 13, is fleeing the states with the swanky Erma (played by Jessica Henry) who was supposed to make the break to the UK with “Snake Eyes” Johnson — public enemy number one. Henry takes the role of Erma to an extraordinary level. Her wit is sharp and delivered perfectly; her sultry style of seduction is embarrassingly alluring.
The most amazing part of EPAC’s “Anything Goes” comes just before intermission. At the end of Act I, Frank leads the entire cast in the performance of the musical’s title song. The number is wonderfully big as every actor fills the stage and performs a spotless routine filled with song and dance. A special nod needs to be given to choreographer and assistant director Irving Gonzalez as the tap dancing routines in “Anything Goes” are more than marvelous. The dance numbers are performed with the highest degree of talent. I’m daring enough to say the cast for “Anything Goes” is one of the most talented compilations to stand on any stage.
“Anything Goes” looks spectacular, from set design to acting. Usually something ultimately goes wrong in theater, after all, it is live. Aside from Frank catching her heel in the seam of her dress during the opening scene — to which she recovered from quite smoothly — there were no glaring errors or accidents in the production of “Anything Goes.” In live performances there is often something to dislike about an actor or a piece of scenery. I can’t find anything critical to write about EPAC’s work.
“Anything Goes” is simply brilliant, well-acted, beautifully choreographed, and a delightful event. I left the Sheriden Bigler Theatre in a jovial mood with a tiny bit of me saddened the show was over.
Oh, and if you like cute dogs, there’s one in this show!