Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Broward Center: Anything Goes (reviews)

edp_anythinggoes_AB05515The national tour of Anything Goes opened at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on May 5, 2015.
All aboard for this saucy and splendid production of Anything Goes, winner of three 2011 Tony Awards including Best Musical Revival and Choreography! One of the greatest musicals in theater history, Cole Porter's first-class musical comedy is sailing in to Fort Lauderdale. Based on Roundabout Theatre Company's production, The New York Times hails it a "musical-comedy joy" and USA Today calls it "glorious and exuberant!"    Peppering this timeless classic are some of musical theatre's most memorable standards, including "I Get A Kick Out Of You," "You're the Top," and of course, "Anything Goes."
Sean McKnight and Jennifer Savelli directed a cast that included Emma Stratton, Brian Krinsky, Rachel Rose Clark, Richard Lindenfelzer, Michael R. Douglass, Dennis Setteducati, Tracy Bidelman,  and Mychal Phillips.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
The production that’s at the Broward Center through May 17 is a stripped-down version of director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall’s 2011 Broadway revival. Like its ‘87 predecessor, Marshall’s Anything Goes won the Tony Award as best revival, though if you see only this serviceable non-Equity second national touring version, you may wonder why.
The cast size has been reduced, and some of the younger performers aren’t long out of college. Likewise, the number of musicians in the “orchestra” doesn’t reach double digits. Derek McLane’s original set design has been adapted for the short runs that this tour often plays, so the ocean liner set looks flimsy, while a Manhattan bar, a “stateroom” and adjacent cabin, and the ship’s brig look skimpy. In a number of respects, this Anything Goes is a minor-league product at major-league prices.
There’s plenty of talent on the Broward Center stage, but this production’s clear-cut star is Emma Stratton as entertainer-evangelist Reno Sweeney. Stratton doesn’t have a big voice like revival predecessors Patti LuPone and Sutton Foster. But she’s a beautiful young woman who completely nails the show’s period style…
Brian Krinsky is a tall drink of water who finds the comedy in smitten stockbroker Billy Crocker’s predicament…  Clark gets her moment in the spotlight with a melancholy Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye.
Dennis Setteducati as conniving Moonface Martin (aka Public Enemy No. 13), Tracy Bidelman as Hope’s controlling mother Evangeline and Mychal Phillips as the ready-to-party Erma, along with Douglass and Lindenfelzer, coax the laughs from an audience smitten with all the easy-to-love Porter numbers.
But for those who care about getting more bang for their touring Broadway bucks, it would be easier to love a less overhauled Anything Goes.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
While this second national tour produced by NETworks Presentations isn’t terrible or even amateurish, there are only a few comparatively if transient bright spots.
This phlegmatic tour is directed and choreographed by Sean McKnight and Jennifer Savelli, both of whom danced in previous productions. According to the Playbill, they “based” their work on the 2011 revival staging by Kathleen Marshall. But the wit, the panache, the knowing ribbing of the show’s dated conventions that marked Ms. Marshall’s work were apparently set adrift in a lifeboat.
Emma Stratton as Reno… gets three of the best songs Porter ever wrote for a woman with a brassy belt: “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “You’re The Top” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” All of them come out of her as martini smooth standards, almost subdued numbers when… well, listen to the cast albums. She never cuts loose from that carefully controlled, self-contained persona and there is not a genuine moment in her entire performance.
But it’s not just her. Leading man Brian Krinsky as Billy is emotionally stolid, vocally debatable and doesn’t have the crucial innate charisma of his predecessors…
Some of the supporting players show signs of life, but not enough to rescue this craft: Richard Lindenfelzer as the English blueblood who exposes some gypsy in his soul, Mychal Phillips as the floozy Erma and Rachelle Rose Clark as Hope.
Once again with these cut-rate tours, the orchestra was slimmed down to nine musicians... Even with three reeds and three brass, the music sounded thin.  And the sound: A critic unfamiliar with the score asked me at intermission whether I was having trouble hearing or understanding the lyrics. Yes, I told him, I was having trouble hearing let alone understanding the lyrics – and I knew most of them by heart. Some of this can be blamed on hiring singers missing power in the upper or lower ranges, but some was just poor sound quality.
If anyone thinks we’re being too hard, listen to a cast album of the show – any of the cast albums or YouTube videos – and compare the electrical charge coming off the grooves and megabytes to what was on stage at the Broward Center.
Mary Damiano reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
A musical full of Cole Porter songs, especially the farcical kind from the 1930s in which madcap antics take place on an ocean liner with dizzy dames, disguises, and romantic scheming should feel as light and fizzy as good champagne.  Instead, Anything Goes feels so heavy and bloated it’s surprising the ship doesn’t sink mid-crossing. Don’t blame the leading lady. 
Emma Stratton is terrific as Reno Sweeney...  Stratton has a full, throaty voice, a glamorous charm, and does she ever rock the palazzo pants during the big title tap number.  While Stratton elevates every scene she’s in, it often feels like she’s in a different, better musical than everyone else.
The same could be said for Mychal Phillips, who plays Erma, a character so minimal to the plot the show could easily happen without her.  But Phillips, who plays a gangster’s moll who never met a sailor she didn’t like, is so much fun to watch that she becomes one of the highlights of the show.  Phillips embodies the fizzy charm that should pervade the show.
The choreography, which won director Kathleen Marshall a Tony Award for the 2011 revival, is beautiful, especially the title number and the gorgeous ballroom dance scene to It’s De-lovely, but in most cases the choreographed numbers go on too long, which makes the show drag.  That, combined with the overall slow pace, hampers the mood. The result is an oddly restrained musical that rarely lets loose and embraces its own romantic exuberance.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for The Sun-Sentinel:
Anything Goes really has only one reason to exist: to provide a pretty setting for the jewels that are Cole Porter's songs.
That the Broadway revival now at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for a two-week run can't pull that off is a real shame, because the show has some stunningly beautiful songs… But the cast singing them lacks spark. There is absolutely no chemistry between any of the leads. Everything is clunky, from punch lines to scene transitions. Even the peppy choreography, which is among the best things about the musical comedy, can be clutzy.
…the story of two mismatched couples trying to rearrange and realign themselves needs big personalities to push it… up to the level of zany the script clearly calls for. As game as they may be, this cast is just not up to the job.
A silly confection with timeless tunes is what is promised. But after a while, the 2 1/2-hour show (with a 15-minute intermission) gets just plain tedious.
The National Tour of Anything Goes plays at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts through May 17, 2015.

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