‘Anything Goes’ at Heritage Players by Amanda Gunther

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It’s delightful! It’s delicious! It’s de-lovely! What is, you ask? Why the Heritage Player’s fall production of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes! Directed by Brian Mellen with Musical Direction by Stephen M. Deininger, this timeless classic will have you dancing on the deck of a swinging high-seas adventure before you can shout- “All Aboard!”

(l to r) Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Ken Kemp), Reno Sweeney (Robyn Bloom), and Moonface Martin (Ryan Geiger). Photo by Josh McKerrow.

Scenic Designer Ryan Geiger is sending the audience off with a friendly bon voyage as he welcomes them aboard the SS American. A double-tiered two story construct of the gleaming white ship consumes the entire stage, creating multiple levels of play space for the cast. Acting as if the audience has joined the ship’s charter they treat the house like the dining hall of the ship so that everyone feels involved.

Costume Designer Robin Trenner gives vivid flashes of the 1930s through her awe-inspiring dresses. The Angels are always looking their best in shiny satin or nautical shades of blue. Trenner’s real glory shines through in the half dozen swanky outfits she crafts for the lounge-singing sensation Reno Sweeney. Each dress cuts the perfect hourglass shape on the actress leaving her looking ravishing and with every bit of class a classy cat like her deserves. The one that takes the crown is the black velour number she wears during “Blow Gabriel Blow.” Complimented with blood red half-length gloves and a diamond cinch belt she’s sure to be marching up to glory.

Commendations of the highest order go to Choreographers Katie Sheldon and Angela Stein. With some of the most extensive and complex tap routines I’ve seen take to the stage this dynamic duo livens up the show’s title number. Sheldon and Stein get the song “Anything Goes” amped up to the appropriate level of awesome to close out the first act with their intense tap rhythms and fiercely and perfectly synchronized hard step, leaving the audience stunned into thunderous applause. Their work is well noted throughout, especially in fun swinging numbers like “Let’s Step Out” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”

While Reno Sweeney may corner the market on solo songs there is something to be said for the vast amount of duets and trios performed throughout the show. We start with the hopelessly romantic crooning couple Billy (Andrew Worthington) and Hope (Mary Czar) in their cozy rendition of “De-Lovely.” Czar is the precious doe-eyed ingénue while Worthington plays the man with genuine charm. Together the pair pitch in to perform a song that’s been struck by Cupid’s magic arrow. Their flirtatious teasing throughout the show is nothing short of amorous and amusing, giving the audience a taste of young love in bloom.

Worthington is the jack of all trades in this production, hot-footing it in the snazzy duet “You’re The Top” with Reno Sweeney (Robyn Bloom). He is the uplifting breath of Cole Porter’s imagination to Bloom’s sassy and grounded lounge lover style of the time. Together they make this duet a sensation as they run up and down the decks and play off one another like old mates.

Reno Sweeney (center- Robyn Bloom) and the ensemble of ‘Anything Goes.’ Photo by Josh McKerrow.

And when you add Moonface Martin (Ryan Geiger) to the duo above you get a terribly terrific trio for “Friendship.” This number gives the audience the three most powerful voices of the show in a silly song-and-dance routine that shows Geiger, Worthington, and Bloom chumming around thick as thieves. They pal around with their physicality and never miss a beat as they trip the life fantastic in this performance.

Geiger, crafting his character around a muddled New York-Chicago gangster is a big bowl of comic relief in the show. His solo “Be Like The Bluebird” is a ridiculously uproarious moment that allows his inner comedian to burst onto the stage in ways previously unseen.

Among other brilliant character profiles we meet Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Ken Kemp) and Mrs. Harcourt (Heidi Toll). Kemp is a rollicking good time as he plays the stuffed shirt Englishman who speaks like he has a monocle trapped in his throat, while Toll lives up the role of the haughty ham who’s daffier than a bunch of ducks. Kemp breaks out of his prim and proper shell for a quirky duet with Reno Sweeney in “Let’s Misbehave.”

Rivaling the female lead in this production is Katie Sheldon, playing as the trampy and tricky Bonnie. Her enthusiasm sweeps over the cast like a contagious tsunami, inspiring happy smiles and high-kicks to everyone she dances with. Sheldon belts out with the best of them, having the most powerful voice in the show, second only to Reno Sweeney herself. Her squeaky sound fits the character and makes for a wildly entertaining evening. Watch her gorgeous smile and crazy legs in “Heaven Hop” and “Let’s Step Out.”

The boat wouldn’t be sailing without the incomparable talents of Robyn Bloom, playing the world renowned lounge singer turned evangelical convert. Bloom exudes confidence and commands the role; her presence on stage being enough to stop the ship in its tracks. She speaks with jazzy charm and easy savior fare, even her outfits are first class.

Bloom is the luxurious smooth champagne in a crystal glass with her sensual rendition of “I Get a Kick Out of You.” Her voice is pure and smooth and powerful. Every song is sensation after sensation but the one that really blows the audience away is when she’s belting in “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” As she hollers that holy hallelujah there’s no doubt that she is absolutely ‘the top!’

(l to r) Billy Crocker (Andrew Worthington) and Bonnie (Katie Sheldon). Photo by Josh McKerrow.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Anything Goes plays through October 28, 2012 at Heritage Players at The Rice Auditorium – 55 Wade Avenue, in Catonsville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (443) 575-6645, or purchase them online.