Tap-Happy "Anything Goes" sets sail for romance and comedy at Westchester Broadway Theatre

Published: Monday, July 16, 2018 By: Chesley Plemmons Source: Danbury News Times

Are you a musical comedy snob?  Do you know anyone who is?  Come on, we all do!!!!!
If so, you're used to the familiar groans (sometimes your own), when your favorite theater schedules a revival of an "oldie, but goodie" from Broadway's past. Why you ask, do I need to see that one again with songs I know by heart?

My advice to you is to keep your disdain in check. You know the songs so well because they won a place in your heart with indelible melodies and catchy lyrics.  And sometimes, yes, sometimes a director knows what he's doing. That's certainly the case with Richard Stafford who has exuberantly directed and choreographed Cole Porter's 1934 hit, "Anything Goes" now at the Westchester Broadway Theatre in Elmsford, New York. He's infused this melody rich show with a youthful take and innocence probably matching that of the original production which helped lift some of the lingering clouds of  The Great Depression. With its witty take on money, marriage and the cult of celebrity, it might be just the ticket for your midsummer doldrums. It will play through Sept. 9, so pay heed to that boarding call.


Few composers could top Porter's brilliant score which boasts such gems as "I've Got You Under My Skin,  "You're The Top,"  "It's Delovely," "You'd Be So Easy to Love" and the rousing "Blow, Gabriel, Blow' and  "Anything Goes." Throw in a couple of comedy numbers" "Friendship" and "Sailors Chanty" and all you have to do is sit back and let a cast of solid singers deliver the goods. (Purists may point out that this show as did many others took liberties with the inclusion of  a song or two by the composer originally from other productions.)


The book, originally by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy  Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse was tweaked by writers Timothy Crouse and John Weidman for a 1987 revival. They added a considerable amount of dance music which director/choreographer Stamford has seized on for superb effect.  


An oddball cast of characters including Public Enemy No 1, several rich swells, a pair or two of mismatched lovers, a frantic stockbroker, his harried aide, a torchy salon singer, a couple of ministers (frocked and unfrocked)  and some NYPD cops tangle and untangle during an Atlantic crossing.  The show may be old enough to suggest the ship might have been one of Columbus's trio, but the crew is anything but infirm or covered with barnacles  The ensemble consists of tireless limber lads and fetching females who dance like there's no tomorrow.


Stafford has focused his most inventive choreography on tap numbers. Not just the usual precision tapping but steps and routines full of humor and character.  His dancers easily move from rapid-fire tapping into slower most languid and romantic interpretations of the same tune.


The cast is up to the task of getting laughs when they're not entrancing us with dreamy Porter magic.


Stacia Fernandez is in fine form as the worldly Reno Sweeney and she delivers the songs originally handled by Ethel Merman with pizzazz - no looking her shoulder for ghosts for this lady. Zach Trimmer is an appealing leading man who can dance with the best of them and possesses a strong, attractive tenor voice.  Jackie Raye as Hope Harcourt,  the object of his affections, is properly pert and pretty and can match Trimmer note for note.


The prime comedian, Jon J. Peterson, is Moonface Martin a wannabe Public Enemy No. 1. Peterson seems to channel his energetic clowning through a Jerry Lewis template.


There are amusing bits by Kevin Pariseau as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, a tottering Brit; Bob Walton as Elisha Whitney, an almost unhinged Yale alumnus and Tina Johnson as Hope's fussy mother.   


Scenic designer, Steve Loftus provided nautical bits and pieces suggesting  shipboard life and Keith Nielsen dressed the cast in costumes that could surely have been labeled "the cat's meow."