'Anything Goes' delivers toe-tapping fun at the Metropolis
"Anything Goes" -- ★ ★ ★
What most audiences want from "Anything Goes" is a glorious parade of Cole Porter standards, including "You're the Top," "I Get a Kick Out of You" and "All Through the Night." The songs form the backbone of this quintessential 1930s Broadway musical comedy, and the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights delivers a largely shipshape production of a classic.
Set aboard a transatlantic ocean liner, "Anything Goes" is a naughty, nautical screwball comedy revolving around evangelical nightclub performers, baffled English aristocracy, in-disguise gangsters and stowaways singing timeless tunes.
Kaity Paschetto leads the show with her tough-dame take on Reno Sweeney, a seen-it-all singer who is not above using her physical wiles to get ahead. Also on board is Billy Crocker (Justice Good, who puts his leading-man looks to good use). Billy has stowed away on the ship to pursue heiress Hope Harcourt (Brandy Miller, who sings with a nice soprano voice). Unfortunately, she's already engaged to the American slang-obsessed English aristocrat Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Connor Murray).
They're joined by Moonface Martin (Mark Pontarelli, who makes for a fully rounded comic oddball gangster even though he could turn his exaggerated scheming down a notch). On the lam from the law, Moonface boards the boat disguised as a preacher, with his man-hungry gun moll sidekick Erma Latour (a great Maddie Dorsey with a hilarious "Noo-Yawk" accent) along for the ride.
Jim Heatherly is also fun as randy, Yale-obsessed codger Elisha Whitney. He pursues the status-seeking and self-centered Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt, imperiously played by Nancy Greco.
Metropolis' production impresses with many amusing comic performances aboard a lovely art deco ship set by designer Christopher Rhoton. Choreographer Christie Kerr also pulls out the stops for the tap-happy title song Act I finale and for the jazzy Act II sermon of "Blow, Gabriel, Blow."
However, some of the humor in "Anything Goes" now falls into the realm of dated and problematic. That's true even though the Metropolis is using the revised 1987 Broadway version of the script (with a nod to the 1962 off-Broadway revision that replaced the Act II song "The Gypsy in Me" with the better-known "Let's Misbehave").
Director Robin M. Hughes and costume designer Rachel S. Parent are stymied with the minor characters of Chinese Christian converts Luke (Chih-Jou Cheng) and John (Peter Ruger). Usually they wear early 20th-century Chinese outfits and speak with pidgin English, which brings about a now-uncomfortable comic disguise switcheroo right before the finale.
The very game Cheng and Ruger do not play into the stereotypes, nor does Parent provide them with the expected coolie hats. Yet because of that, that disguise scene near the end doesn't make much comic sense.
Aside from this stumbling block (and some awkward back-and-forth transitions between the script and songs), "Anything Goes" at the Metropolis endures as a beloved example of 1930s escapism from the woes of the Great Depression. Times have changed, though, and the musical may need another revision in the near future so it can sit comfortably with modern sensibilities.
• • •
Location: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday; runs through Nov. 2
Running time: About two hours and 20 minutes with intermission
Parking: Adjacent parking garage with free area street parking
Rating: One drug reference and plenty of innuendo, but largely for general audiences