Silhouette Stages’ production of Anything Goes with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, and book by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay, and Russel Crouse is presently playing at Slayton House located in Wilde Lake Village in Columbia, MD. The play is artfully directed by Conni Trump Ross.
The plot is very typical of its era, the 1930s. Boy meets girl and they fall in love only to lose touch with each other. Meanwhile, she is set to marry a wealthy British man under pressure from her mother. Add in a hard-as-nails evangelical chanteuse, an inept gangster and his ditzy female companion, and some very other oddball characters and you get the picture. The greatness of this musical is Cole Porter’s lyrics and music with some sharp, witty dialogue from those well-known writers. (Lindsay and Crouse were brought in to fix the script.)
In some ways, the script is there to hold your interest as you go from one Cole Porter standard to another. This production will not disappoint those who wish to be thoroughly entertained.
Robyn Bloom plays Reno Sweeney, the nightclub singer with her chorus of Angels. She pretends to be a woman of the cloth, but like a lot of the characters, she uses this as a disguise in her act. She is tough and earthy. Bloom’s Ethel Merman style (or for those younger, Bette Midler) fits Reno perfectly. Her appearances on stage are riveting. It is no wonder the writers gave Reno some of the best songs, “I Get a Kick Out of You” (solo) and with the Company “Blow, Gabriel Blow” and of course, “Anything Goes.” The latter closes Act I with flair. As expected, the precision tapping of Reno and her Angels in the title song is probably the highlight of the show.
Jim Gross is Billy Crocker, who sneaks on board to try to regain the heart of his girl, Hope Harcourt (played by Rebecca Hanauer). Gross and Hanauer have the one real love song of the show, “All Through the Night,” and both do a fine job expressing their longing. I particularly enjoyed their rendition, along with the Company’s, of the other memorable Porter song, “It’s De-Lovely.”
One of the brightest performances is Maddie Bohrer’s Bonnie, the gangster’s girlfriend. She will have you wanting to jump out of your seat to join her in “Heaven Hop” in Act I and with “Let’s Step Out” in Act II.
Another standout is Ryan Geiger who plays Sir Evelyn Oakley, Hope’s fiancé. He is quite funny and brings out Sir Oakley’s deliciously droll hidden personality.
Todd Hochkeppel is Moonface Martin, Public Enemy #13, who sneaks aboard ship disguised as a priest. This role provides a great deal of the comedy in Anything Goes. Hochkeppel does not let us down. His broad, sometimes slapstick humor keeps Moonface likable and laughable.
The rest of the cast, Heidi Toll as Mrs. Harcourt, Bill Pond as Eli Whitney, Doug A. Thomas as the Captain, Lawrence Custis as the Purser, Michael Cornell as Bishop Henry T. Dobson, and Amelia and Dana Bonistalli as the two Converts all provide fine supporting characters. The Ensemble, Christine Benkoski, Brent Benkoski, Stephanie Gertler, Katrina Grove, Kate Plough, Maggie Walker, Angel Duque, and James Morgan, are perfect examples of the excellent singers and dancers that are trademarks of Silhouette Stages’ productions.
However, a special “hats-off” to the Angels (Reno’s backup girls). Lisa Rigby as Charity, Marcie Price as Chastity, Maggie Mellott as Purity, Triana McCorkle as Virtue, Abby McDonough as Devine, Miranda Snyder as Harmony, and Tori Worth as Prudence are sensational. They all are remarkable dancers and singers.
Ross and Choreographer Tina DeSimone have created a bright and flavorful production. DeSimone’s attention to detail makes you forget that her dancers are not the Rockettes. Although they are all different heights and ages, they are never noticeably out of step. Even their kicks are all the same height, which is an extraordinary piece of choreography.
William George’s Musical Direction is also excellent. Most of the singers obviously have trained voices but they all are well blended. You may wonder where Silhouette Stages finds all these fine songbirds.
The set by Alex Porter is a good fit for the stage at Slayton House. His ship replicates those elegant luxury liners of their age. The set changes, recreating cabins and even the brig, went smoothly and quickly. Porter also is credited with the Sound Design, which is so well integrated with the staging you barely notice it’s there.
The Lighting Design by Mark Scanga helps create a lot of the mood, especially the romantic moonlight night in Act I.
Tommy Malek’s costumes are bright and also in the style of the 1930s. They convey the elegance of the rich as well as having traditional sailor and ship’s officers costumes. The designs allow the dancers to move about easily. This show has many costume changes and many disguises. Malek makes it look easy.
Cole Porter’s music has become a fabric in our society, and it does not matter how young or old you are you will be humming many of these tunes for days. Don’t let Anything Goes sail away before you get to see it.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with one intermission.
Anything Goes plays through Sunday, March 24, 2019, at Silhouette Stages performing at Slayton House Theatre in Wilde Lake Village Center— 10400 Cross Fox Lane, Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (410) 637-5289, or purchase them online.