Review: “Anything Goes” At The Ogunquit Playhouse Through July 9th
by Bobby Franklin
Put a classic Broadway musical into the hands of the artists at the Ogunquit Playhouse and it is pretty much guaranteed you will be in for a wonderful evening. The current production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” is another example of the wonderful things that happen on the Playhouse stage.
A great cast led by Andrea McArdle, Sally Struthers, and Josh Canfield make this play simply DeLovely. “Anything Goes” opens strong with Reno Sweeney singing “I Get A Kick Out Of You” to the object of her desires Billy Crocker. With such a strong and well delivered opening number I wondered if they were going to be able to continue the pace for the rest of the show. Well, Cole Porter knew his music, and the cast knows their Cole Porter.
Setting sail to “There’s No Cure Like Travel” led by the Captain (Seth Lerner) and “Bon Voyage” we learn that while Reno loves Billy, he is hopelessly in love with debutante Hope Harcourt (Patti-Lee Meringo) who is engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Ian Knauer).
Everything becomes delightfully madcap as Billy stows away on board with plans to win Hope’s heart. While doing so he befriends Public Enemy #13, Moonfaced Martin played by Ray DeMattis who cracks an endless stream of one liners. While some are groaners, they are all funny with his superb delivery. Martin is disguised as a priest in order to evade the authorities, which creates for some awkward and very humorous moments.
Sally Struthers, oh yes Sally, who returns to Ogunquit each year and never disappoints, is marvelous as Hope’s mother Evangeline. Ms Struthers brings out laughs with just a sidewards glance. She is as strong as ever in this production. In one scene she spends about fifteen seconds singing her way across the stage, but in this few seconds she has the audience roaring with laughter. She is such a treasure. Evangeline is being pursued by Elisha Whitney (Steve Brady) who is a bit of a tippler and the perfect match for her.
As I said earlier, it seemed that with such a strong opening it would be difficult for the cast to keep moving things along. The play only got stronger as each situation and song were brought out. Reno and Billy dancing and singing their way through a wonderful “You’re The Top” where we see Ms McArdle’s immense talent on display while being complimented by the very able Josh Canfield who was perfect in the role of Billy. Hope and Billy singing “It’s DeLovely”, the lively duet with Reno and Moonface performing “Friendship”, and the toe tapping “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” where Andrea McArdle and the cast light up the stage, all make this a fantastic evening.
I have to mention two other numbers that were outstanding. Mychal Phillips as Erma burned up the stage while dancing her way along with the sailors to “Buddie, Beware”. The audience loved her.
Ian Klauer’s playing the very British Lord Oakleigh is sidesplittingly funny in his rendition of “The Gypsy In Me” as he tangos across the stage in John Cleese fashion. Oh, this was funny!
The cast is supported by a six piece orchestra directed by Charlie Reuter. Mr. Reuter and his musicians make it look easy. Choreography by Jason wise is step perfect, and the whole production is in the fine hands of director Jayme McDaniel.
Now, I have left out one new incredible rising young star who took the stage by storm in his debut. That would be charming, talented, four legged sensation Little Bradford T. Kenney. Never have I seen such a strong performance from a first time player. It might be noted that this Mr. Kenney, named after Ogunquit Playhouse Artistic Director Brad Kenney, is a Cairn Terrier and has quite the theatre background. Little Bradford was adopted from a kill shelter by Sally Struthers and went out on that stage a puppy but came back a star.
Seeing a play on Broadway is now beyond the financial reach of many people, but that does not mean seeing a full fledged Broadway production is. The Ogunquit Playhouse gives us all you will get on the Great White Way and even more as they make their audience feel as if they have found a home there.
I am sure you will find “Anything Goes” delovely and leave thinking it’s the tops.
For ticket information contact the Ogunquit Playhouse at 207.646.5511 or OgunquitPlayhouse.org