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Phony clergymen, sailors, a nouveau pauvre society dame and her daughter, gangsters and a stodgy Englishman rub elbows and dance up a storm on the S.S. America in the 1934 Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes.”
The show, which has delighted audiences for nearly 80 years and is still one of the most performed shows in schools and community theaters around the country, plays through Sept. 8 at Vista’s Moonlight Amphitheatre. Jon Engstrom serves as director and choreographer.
Let’s face it – it’s not the plot people go to see. The story is frothy and silly, the jokes corny, the action farcical and you’ll probably forget the plot by the time you get home.
But those songs! It’s the glorious, toe-tapping, witty tunes and lyrics by the incomparable Porter that bring audiences back to this show.
Consider a short list: “I Get a Kick Out Of You,” “You’re The Top” “Easy to Love” and the title song. Classics all – and that’s just the first act.
And let’s not forget the dancing – most especially the tap dance routines – which practically bring down the house.
Jeffrey Scott Parsons is perfectly cast as Billy Crocker, a young stock broker who stows away on the ship in order to woo the girl of his dreams, Hope Harcourt (Courtney Fero, whose loveliness and sweet voice do the part justice).
Hope loves Billy but plans to marry stuffy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Nick Tubbs). Her mother, Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt (the always-wonderful Dagmar Krause Fields), hopes this marriage will help her recover the lifestyle lost when her husband jumped off a building after losing his money in the 1929 crash.
But the heart of the show – and the character made famous on Broadway by Ethel Merman (and later Sutton Foster) – is Billy’s galpal, evangelist-turned-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney.
Tracy Lore’s Reno has the lung power of Merman but seemed uncomfortable in the first act’s higher ranges on opening night. But she found her stride in the second-act blockbuster “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”
Along to provide silliness, lots of running-around action and fine performances are gangster Moonface Martin (Barry Pearl) and his moll Erma (the adorable Hannah Balagot) and the Reverend Henry T. Dobson (Stephen Gentry). Most embarrassing of all to Billy: his boss, Yalie Elisha J. Whitney (Joel W. Gossett), is on the ship.
Broadway veteran Pearl has great timing, as does Balagot. Tubbs’ amusing, idiom-mangling Lord Oakleigh gets to let his hair down on “The Gypsy In Me.”
“Anything Goes” has had some doctoring: two books and many changes in plot and song list. The original story had a shipwreck; that was ditched after a cruise ship tragedy killed 134 people. Songs have been added and deleted.
But the S.S. America and its passengers will likely continue to amuse audiences far into the future because, well, it’s just fun to watch.
“Anything Goes” plays through Sept. 8 at Moonlight Amphitheatre, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive in Vista.
Wednesday through Sunday at 8 pm.
For tickets, call 760-724-2110 or visit HERE.
To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.