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Musical 'Anything Goes' elicits laughs — and some reflection

A cute story, appealing characters, incomparable Cole Porter tunes, snappy costumes, a sharp set and a sweet little combo in the orchestra pit — that's the musical Anything Goes at Stage West Community Playhouse weekends through Nov. 22.

With all that, it's easy to forgive a few awkward pauses and spotlight problems on opening night.

Start with Leanne Germann as the tough-talking evangelist-turned-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, the linchpin of the various stories on board the S.S. American as it chugs its way from New York to London in the 1930s.

The multi-award-winning Ms. Germann has never been in better voice and style, belting her way through the duet You're the Top with best pal Billy Crocker (an appealing Mitchell Gonzalez), leading the cast in the high energy Blow, Gabriel, Blow, or wistfully crooning I Get a Kick Out of You.

She's a good match for the irrepressible Dave Stenger as Moonface Martin, Public Enemy No. 13 who longs to move up the criminal scale to at least No. 6 before he fries.

Stenger is an eye magnet who could easily steal every scene he's in — great accent, perfect comic timing, excellent physical humor — but, pro that he is, he pulls it in and is as still as a shipboard mouse when it's someone else's turn to shine.

Romance is everywhere, as Billy pursues his true love, Hope Harcourt (a lovely Victoria Primosch), who is, unfortunately, engaged to the upper crust Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Ryan Rogers). Primosch's clear, firm voice is terrific in the ballad All Through the Night with Billy and the bouncy It's De-lovely with the cast. Rogers, at first somewhat reserved, finds his sea legs in the second act for some wonderful comedy shtick.

Penny Ash is oh-so-proper as Hope's gold-digging mum, Mrs. Wadsworth T. Harcourt; Gary Kopitzke makes a fine target for her as Wall Street magnate Elisha J. Whitney. Jeanene MacLean is a spunky ship's purser, corralling suspects and innocents alike. And Vin Cloonan is always good for a laugh as the ubiquitous unshipshape drunk.

Choreographer Terri Marwood squeezes every ounce of bounce from the large cast, incorporating them in the production numbers and spotlighting talent of all ages and sizes. Reno's Angels (Angelena Burrow, Melissa Triana, Leslee Starz and Jessica Pettillo) do justice to Ms. Marwood's dance steps, the many snazzy costumes by Mollie Lutz and Betsy Glasson, as well as director/set designer John Masterson's star-sprinkled set.

Elaine Saulnier's 7-piece combo does a fine job in the orchestra pit; note Judy Polatschek-Palais' trilling flute during Moonface's comical solo, Be Like the Bluebird.

Anything Goes feels like a piece of funny fluff, but it has some serious things to say about societal values — or lack thereof — including unreasonable, unwarranted celebrity worship (everybody just adores Public Enemy No. 1), snobbery, avarice and even racism.

It goes for 2 1/2 hours, but the seamless scene shifts and quick pace make it seem like just a moment.


'Anything Goes'

When: Weekends through Nov. 22

Where: Stage West Community Playhouse, 8390 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill.

Tickets: $18 adults, $9 students. Box office is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and an hour before each performance.

Information: (352) 683-5113

Musical 'Anything Goes' elicits laughs — and some reflection 11/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, November 6, 2009 4:51pm]
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