Review by Danny Gaisin
“♫ In olden days a glimpse of stocking… ♪ ”. The period Cole Porter referred to was probably the time leading up to the First World War. Things changed with the Flapper era and the market crash. By 1934 things hadn’t improved financially, but mores had evolved. Thus ‘anything goes’ became a philosophy. Etobicoke Musical Productions has brought back this tuneful hit that embodies the creative style of pre-Webber Broadway productions – i.e. full measure of memorable songs that were sing-along-able even out of context. EMP has another hit presentation with “ANYTHING GOES”. And if one can’t grasp some of the similes quoted in ‘You’re the Top, write us!
The plotlines deal with a young man and his already engaged objet d’amour; a gangster and his moll; a Gospeler turned nightclub singer & her showgirls; plus the crew and passengers of a transatlantic liner. Naturally, there are capricious incidents, disguise shenanigans, misrepresentations and changing relationships- all tunefully & terpsichoreally unveiled.
This numerically large undertaking, both cast and crew, is under the megaphone of director Gillian Rodrigue and her touch is immaculate. Pace is rapid but never seems harried. Rather, the story unfolds at an almost metronomic rhythm that is pleasantly allegretto. Audience attention and interest never wavers. The costumes and especially the numerous elaborate chorus numbers are standouts and alone are worthy of the admission cost. The orchestra under Michael Grieco is almost faultless and fortunately never overpowering given the quality and poetry of the Porter lyrics. We were especially enamored with choreographer Lee-Anne Galloway’s dance tempi illustrated during the ‘It’s De-Lovely’ number. One witnesses the waltz; Paso doble, rumba, and tango all interpreted by the dance performers on stage. A tour-de-force moment. She then outdoes herself with a Mirvish/King St. quality BIG chorus number ‘Blow Gabriel, blow” in Act II.
The pivotal role is that of young Billy Crocker the besotted swain. Brian Hargan gives a credible portrayal of his character through his acting singing and dancing. Normally, the show would be his but for the dynamic upstaging of Mary Bowden’s Reno interpretation. The lady is an outstanding triple threat. From her opening ‘I get a kick out of you’ number; and her trio hit ‘Friendship’ to her dynamic ‘Gabriel’ showstopper, the lady sells every song. She has the opportunity to perform the title song as well as the pure poetry of” You’re the Top”. Her vocal projection allows the audience to hear and appreciate the still meaningful lyrics- certainly the equal of Hammerstein’s best.
Among the support roles; Ray Chaaya and his sexy partner Erma played by Julia Mather whose Brooklynese is worthy of Frank Loesser’s “Miss Adelaide” and her “In udder woids, a poyson can develop a cold”. Together, they caricature a stereotype without being offensive. Good interpretation, great direction. Caroline Rowe portrays the young love interest and experienced some miking & projection problems early into the play, but correction was made allowing the audience to appreciate her fine soprano range. Chris White plays her snotty British fiancé and his ridiculous ‘Gypsy in Me’ number is a comedic hoot.
The ensemble members all contribute full measure of positive attitude and effort thus underscoring the visual impact of the chorus numbers. One senses that they too, realize the impact of their involvement and perform accordingly.
ANYTHING GOES will be at the Meadowvale Theatre until Oct.30th. Slip on your deck shoes or Sperry ™ ‘Topsiders and get aboard the S.S. America for a delightful 2½ musical cruise…it’s a definite O.A.R. TOP TEN contender.