Theatre review: Anything Goes – it really is de-lovely

For most of us, the chance we’ll get to see the Tony Award winning revival of Anything Goes that is currently taking Broadway by storm is slim to none.  Fortunately we’ve got our own rousing production under the stars at Malkin Bowl, led by a wonderful performance by Irene Karas who would no doubt give Sutton Foster a run for her money.

There is no denying Karas is the star of this show.  This woman not only can belt out a tune, her “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” is one of the show’s many highlights, but she breathes a real life into her role of Reno Sweeney.  Originally made famous by the larger-than-life Ethel Merman, Karas’ Reno is that perfect combination of big, brassy and bold that the role demands.

The other female standout here is Jacqueline Breakwell who does a wonderful job as gun moll Erma.  Her sexy number, that literally charms the pants off the ship’s sailors, is another of this show’s highlights.

Among the men it is Andrew Cownden as Moonface Martin and Seth Little as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh who makes the most of their characters.  Cownden gets his drawl just right, making for a delightful send-up of gangsters of the era and when paired with Karas for the familiar “Friendship”, the two create some real magic on stage.  Little’s Oakleigh is perfectly eccentric and he had us all in stitches when he lets loose with the very funny and oddly sexy “Gypsy in Me”.  Both Cownden and Little have great comedic timing.

As the two romantic leads, Lauren Bowler and Todd Talbot have a nice chemistry but they struggle as the only two characters on stage that must play it (mostly) straight amongst a sea of broadly drawn characters.

The chorus of the Theatre Under The Stars production of Anything Goes
Jacqueline Breakwell and the women’s chorus of Theatre Under The Stars’ Anything Goes

Director Sarah Rogers keeps the evening moving at a very quick pace enlisting the help of the ensemble for the numerous scene changes.  Dayna Tekatch’s choreography really shines in the smaller moments, especially between Bowler and Talbot, but the larger production numbers didn’t have the grandeur of the show’s cousin, Bye Bye Birdie, which is playing on alternate nights.

Set designer Kevin McAllister brings inventive and easily moveable set pieces to help ensure the pace is not slowed by the scene changes and Gerald King lights it all, moving us perfectly between the numerous daylight and nighttime scenes.

The sound gremlins managed to get into the works last night which can be a problem for TUTS.  Of course, as luck would have it microphones failed for “Friendship” which would have easily been one of the best numbers of the night.  I was pleased though that the microphones worked perfectly during the tap number.  Musical director Christopher King and his orchestra bring Porter’s immediately recognizable songs to life and even manage to help elevate some of the lesser works in this piece.

If you’re only planning on seeing one TUTS show this year, Anything Goes is that show.   It really is de-lovely.

(The show also passed the “kid test” as we brought two young girls, aged 10 and 11, to see the show.  Both were enthusiastic in their praise for the show agreeing with each other if they were going to give it a rating it would definitely be five stars.)

4 Out of 5 Stars Anything Goes

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter.  Original book by P.G. Woodhouse & Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse.  New book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman.  Directed by Sarah Rodgers.  Musical direction by Christopher King.  A Theatre Under the Stars presentation.  On stage at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park through August 20, 2011.  Visit http://www.tuts.ca for tickets and information.

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