Encore’s ‘Anything Goes’ reaches the stars with Cole Porter classic
DEXTER, Mich.–The Encore Musical Theatre’s new production of Anything Goes shows how a theatre can take an old crowd-pleaser of a musical, cast it with the best actors around, and get this “really big show” to stand up and grab your mood and your heart even in a relatively small black-box theater space.
The cast sings with gusto some of the best American Songbook classics–“I Get A Kick Out of You,” “You’re The Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Friendship”–dance like they are on Broadway, and make Cole Porter who wrote the tunes smile from his perch in heaven.
The plot is pretty breezy and barely noticeable but as a vehicle for the song and dance. Wall Street flunky Billy Crocker (Sebastian Gerstner) is in love with Hope Harcourt (Emily Hadick) who is set to marry Britisher Lord Evelyn Oakley (David Moan). Reno Sweeney (Olivia Hernandez) is in love with Billy, but will eventually accept that Billy’s heart lied elsewhere and will turn her attentions to Lord Evelyn.
Billy is Public Enemy #1 as a stowaway on the ship where all the action takes place, and he becomes mated up with Moonface Martin (Dan Morrison) who is Public Enemy #10. His moll, Erma, is played by Elizabeth Jaffe. The title of the show is apt as pretty much “Anything Goes” in this story to get all the fabulous tunes into the show.
Hernandez, previously seen at The Encore in the title role of Mary Poppins, is saucy and glamorous and delivers on her society-tart role with deliciousness. Moan’s Oakley is hilarious, delivering his malaprops with John Barrymore-like perfect timing as he tries to deliver American idioms to fit in with his bride-to-be and her crowd of friends. “Get me my tea…and step in it.” His tango “The Gypsy in Me” in tee-shirt and boxer shorts, with perfectly applied garters to hold up his sox, is a thing to behold. Morrison’s Moonface is wonderful as the low-rent ham-handed gangster who connives and conspires with a grin and eye-twinkle, impersonating a minister and Chinese man along the way. Jaffe nails her slutty, dishy moll role with charm, preventing the period depiction from slipping away into something you wouldn’t want the kids to see. Gerstner’s Billy is charming, impish and, as always, he hoofs his way into the audience’s hearts.
The leads are complemented by a sensational cast of secondary leads and ensemble, put together by Director Thalia Schramm as if she was assembling an Encore All-Star team: Jeffrey Steinhauer as Elias Whitney; Wendy Katz Hiller as Evangeline Harcourt; Luciana Piazza as Virtue; Bryana Hall as Chastity; Dale Dobson as the Captain; Kristin McSweeney as Charity; Brendan August Kelly as Purser. There literally is not a weak link in the big cast.
Tyler Driskill as music director leads a seven piece band that brings the Porter tunes to vibrant life. Rachel Constantino leads the choreography. The Encore pulled out the stops to make this play not only work, but stand up on its hind legs and sing to the stars. Get your tickets while they last.