Encore Michigan

Nicely hits out of the park with ‘Anything Goes.’

Review March 05, 2022 David Kiley

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich.–The Nicely Theatre Group, formed during the Covid-19 pandemic when theaters were dark, opened up its first indoor, full-fledged show, Anything Goes, at The Berman Center for the Performing Arts to a healthy-sized and enthusiastic audience.

The Cole Porter musical, book by P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton  (New book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman) was a solid choice for the new-ish company (though it is one of the most produced musicals in the country by professional and community theaters), as the Berman audience seemed to be looking for a big rollicking musical to get their feet wet again as audience members.

The story: Billy Crocker (Jason Bowen) stows away on a cruise ship because the girl he loves, Hope (Arden Walker), is aboard with her English fiancée, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Michael McKiddy) and he is hoping to thwart the wedding. Meantime, the gal who loves Billy, Reno Sweeney (Erin Johnson), is aboard, and after finding out Billy’s true feelings targets Lord Evelyn for her own.

The key to getting this show right is casting the principles well with solid voices, and finding enough ensemble players who can really sing and dance. And Director Mitch Master, Choreographers Lindsey Tycholiz-McKiddy and Heidi Schultz, and producer David Carroll scored big on this huge production.

The true star of the show, though, is Cole Porter’s songs, which have stood the test of time: I Get A Kick Out of You, You’re The Top, Easy To Love, Friendship, It’s De-lovely, Anything Goes, Blow Gabriel Blow, All Through The Night. There’s not one dud song in the whole show, and those pieces have been covered by every singer of American standards since Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House. Crocker and Reno are the principles who deliver most of the timeless classics, and Ms. Johnson and Mr. Bowen more than do the tunes justice, each well up the task of leaning into the campy story when it makes sense, as well as selling the songs and delivering on the dance steps.

Key supporting actors are also superb: Tom Pagano as funny gangster Moonface Martin, Ed Kelly as Wall Street titan Elisha J. Whitney and Mr. McKiddy as Lord Evelyn. McKiddy is hilarious and nails the foppish Brit.

The big dance numbers come off the way you hope, owing to the quality of direction and casting, which is a mix of very experienced touring actors, recent and current college-level theatre students and experienced community theater actors. The full orchestra, led by Music Director Amy Suave, are very solid and have some great moments interacting with the players.

Nicely produced some virtual shows during the pandemic, and Putnam County Spelling Bee last summer. Producing this big show was ambitious for such a new company, but thankfully the troupe hit it out of the park.

It’s a short run, and today’s matinee and tonight’s performance are the last of four performances.


Week of 8/15/2022

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