“Anything Goes” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ March 2, 2015


Phoenix Theatre, The Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

From the first bouncy notes of Phoenix Theatre’s exuberantly staged and smartly cast “Anything Goes” Cole Porter’s charmingly melodic 1934 show sparkles as it entertains mightily.  Director/choreographer Robert Kolby Harper wisely chose the musical’s 1987 Broadway version when the original book was sharpened to a more contemporary sensibility.  Even though the revised show touches on contemporary social commentary about women’s rights and the need for equality, all of Porter’s original songs were restored and some additional Porter tunes were added.

Harper’s engaging “Anything Goes” contains spirited choreography including some rigorous tap routines while the show makes subtle but still telling commentary about the need for female equality.  There’s more innuendo in “Anything Goes” and less heavy-handed finger pointing than in many current shows.

The giddy romantic story is pretty simple.  Hope plans to marry eligible bachelor Lord Oakleigh but she really loves Billy while Oakleigh has his eye on nightclub chanteuse Reno Sweeney.  The show is set on a luxurious ship completing an Atlantic crossing which allows adequate time to resolve every love interest.  Comedy comes from gangster Moonface Martin.  Several plot diversions never blur the always obvious conclusion but the splashy production numbers and fabulous Porter tunes make the journey a delight.

Director/choreographer Harper has a field day splashing toe-tapping dances to accompany the songs and an exemplary cast does it all – singing, acting, and dancing – with stirring aplomb.  Playing Reno is Debby Rosenthal who sings with the lusty gusto and fervor reminiscent of the original Reno, Ethel Merman.  Rosenthal taps with precision as she leads the talented ensemble in several glowing production numbers.

As Billy, Jonathan Hoover dances with verve and sings impressively.  D. Scott Withers is appropriately hoity-toity as the uptight but sexually liberated Lord Oakleigh.  Jon Gentry is the lovable gangster Moonface and Gentry adds a deft comic touch to the show.  Trisha Hart Ditsworth is appropriately snotty as Hope while Christy Welty is refreshingly sincere as Hope’s addled but on-the-make mother, Evangeline.  A fancy ship is the show’s stylish setting and lush period attire completes the show’s elegant and sophisticated look.  It’s a shame that Alan Ruch’s spot-on orchestra isn’t seen and the loud sound system makes the show a bit shrill but you never miss a word.

If diverting entertainment is what you want, you can’t go wrong with Phoenix Theatre’s snappy “Anything Goes.”  It continues through March 22.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A