By Tina Arth and Darrell Baker
Cole Porter’s classic musical comedy Anything Goes has survived a number of dramatic sea changes since it made its Broadway debut in 1934. Sings have been added, deleted, and reassigned, characters renamed, and plotlines modified, keeping the show remarkably fresh as it enters its 80th year. Director Tony Bump’s current adaptation at Hillsboro’s HART Theatre fully exploits the license granted by this tradition, and the result is a lean, clever, fast-paced show that thoroughly entertains its 2014 audience.
Young Wall Street broker Billy Crocker comes aboard the S.S. American to deliver a passport to his boss. Billy encounters the lovely Hope Harcourt, for whom he has pined ever since they spent 9 (or was it 12?) hours in a hansom cab months earlier. Discovering that Hope is en route to England to marry stuffy British nobleman Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, Billy opts to stow away and disrupt the wedding plans. Gangster on the lam Moonface Martin takes Billy under his wing, and over the course of two acts, 18 musical numbers, countless disguises, sight gags, and cheap jokes Billy wins Hope’s hand. The plot is tied up nicely when Sir Evelyn marries alluring nightclub performer Reno Sweeney, Hope’s mother finds true love with Billy’s boss, and Moonface Martin is declared harmless by the FBI.
Andy Roberts (“Billy Crocker”) and Rachel Thomas (“Hope Harcourt”) make a cute and believable couple. Thomas shifts fluidly from starry-eyed infatuation to dignified petulance, while Roberts brings a playful insouciance to his pathetically obvious disguises. Their mastery of the tricky lyrics and meter of “It’s Delovely” make this lighthearted number one of the show’s highlights.
Dorinda Toner (“Reno Sweeney”) makes the most of a role originally defined by the great Ethel Merman. She is brassy, brash, and bubbly – a real belter with a great voice. In solos and backed by her “Angels” (a lovable quartet of slightly used, tap-dancing showgirls) she enthusiastically delivers the show’s liveliest numbers.
Steve Pitzel (“Sir Evelyn Oakleigh”) uses his extensive entertainment background to mine every possible nuance of what can be (but isn’t always) a great comic role. His timing, dry delivery, and exceptionally mobile eyes ensure that many of the show’s funniest situations get the laughs they deserve.
Anything Goes’ secret weapon is Stan Yeend as the machine gun totin’ Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin. From his first moment on stage, Yeend holds the audience in thrall as he casually cavorts through an endless series of one-liners mixed with physical comedy. He is ably assisted by Megan Bronleewe as his sidekick, “Bonnie,” who gives a particularly funny twist to her delivery of “Heaven Hop.”
The show requires a strong ensemble for many of the big song and dance numbers; despite some problems with accompaniment director Bump’s cast is equal to the task. Audiences looking for a good old-fashioned musical with lots of laughs, lively tap dancing, and appealing songs will definitely enjoy the production.
Anything Goes runs through Sunday, June 22 with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:00 p.m. on Sundays at H.A.R.T. Theater, 185 S.E. Washington, Hillsboro.