‘Anything Goes’ at The Warner Theatre

The national tour of Anything Goes, the Broadway revival of Cole Porter’s theatrical masterpiece made its premiere at the The Warner Theatre last night, demonstrating that the long-established effervescent musical comedy about sophisticated mayhem aboard a swanky ocean liner can still, to this day, produce the same exuberant enthusiasm and excitement as it did nearly 81 years ago.

The cast of 'Anything Goes'. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
The cast of ‘Anything Goes.’ Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Winner of the 2011 Tony Award® for Best Revival of a Musical, Anything Goes skillfully sets sail under the helm of Sean McKnight and Jennifer Savelli who recreated the original direction and choreography by Kathleen Marshall, who won the 2011 Tony Award® for Best Choreography. Based on Roundabout Theatre Company’s production, the new delectably-crafted revival showcases sensational numbers and spectacular dancing that are absolutely delightful, delicious, de-lovely.

Garnering most of its 1930’s era authenticity from Derek McLane’s ingenious set design and Martin Pakledinaz’s collective confections of costumes, the story unfolds aboard a ship bound for London from New York. Amongst the vessel’s passengers are wealthy business tycoon Eli Whitney (Michael R. Douglass) and celebrity debutante Hope Harcourt (Rachelle Rose Clark), escorted by her mother Evangeline (Tracy Bidleman), and Hope’s new Brit fiancé Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Richard Lindenfelzer). Adding to the mix of zany characters are: minister Henry T. Dobson (Bradley Allan Zarr) who has brought along a couple of Chinese missionaries, Luke (Roy Flores) and John (Stephen Mark), with him.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Whitney, his young stockbroker employee Billy Crocker (Brian Krinsky) defies a direct order and stows away on the ship, hoping to woo Hope – a girl he has fallen in love with after meeting just one time. In addition, minor-league gangster, chagrined by his dismal rating as America’s 13th Most Wanted Man, “Moonface” Martin (Dennis Setteducati) has also boarded the liner, hiding out in disguise alongside his bawdy sidekick gal pal and available sailor-huntress Erma (Mychal Phillips). At the center of the class crew is Reno Sweeney, the sexy evangelist-turned-nightclub chanteuse with a not-so-secret crush on Billy, who is played with splendid smartness and grand gusto by Emma Stratton.

Draped in stylishly, slinky-spangled apparel, coiffed in a perfect platinum pouf, scarlet red lips and flashing-bright eyes, Stratton artfully exhibits the good-time glimmers of a woman who has been around the block and knows how to optimally circumnavigate the town. Offering a Marilyn Monroe-like charisma and resemblance with substantially stronger vocals, as displayed in her duet with Setteducati’s Moonface, “Friendship,” and essentially knocking the roof off the house in “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”

Stratton stars, yet generously blends and cohesively collaborates with the rest of the talented ensemble. For example, in “Anything Goes”, Stratton still shines while serving as a catalyst for the other performers who are each belting and tapping in a gloriously unifying formation. This musical number is all-absorbing, exhilarating tour de force in it of itself – truly an extraordinary extravaganza to behold.

As the lovelorn Billy Crocker, Krinsky renders a low-key charm and understated appeal. Rachelle Rose Clark brings a translucent grace to the role of debutante Hope Harcourt, pressured by her status-conscious mother (Tracy Bidleman) to marry into class — and money. Mama’s quarry is Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Richard Lindenfelzer), a prime specimen of an upper-class British aristocratic formality laced with all preening, uptight postures. Later in Act Two, however, Lindenfelzer unexpectedly cuts loose with Stratton in ”The Gypsy in Me,” stealing his crux of the show with his impressive comic timing and very un-gypsy like, Ministry of Silly Walks-inspired dance moves. Even in a musical as lighthearted as this one, there is something magical about seeing a character embrace themselves fully in such an uninhibited way, and Lindenfelzer’s overblown earnestness is enormously enchanting.

A charming concoction of sanitized silliness and sophistication, McKnight and Savelli’s dazzling recreated production of Anything Goes, complete with nostalgic music and exquisite choreography, gleams with boundless enthusiasm, fervor and spirit that may be appreciated by audiences of all ages in any time period.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

Anything Goes ends its run tonight Thursday, February 26, 2015 at The Warner Theatre – 513 13th Street, in Washington, DC. For tickets to all events at The Warner Theatre, purchase them online.

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Anything Goes Tour Official Website.