THEATER REVIEW: ‘Anything goes’ delightfully delivered at Mac-Haydn

“Anything Goes” / Mac-Haydn Theatre

“ANYTHING GOES.” Really? Anything? The main things that go and come in productions of this musical are Cole Porter songs. It is amazing how the composer’s tunes and lyrics can be axed or added without materially disturbing the flow of the piece. I guess the vaudeville-era tradition of low jokes and loosely connected, lively songs was still around when “Anything Goes” was created. In this version, the song choices are mostly traditional and happy-making. “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-lovely,” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” are almost indestructible.

In the Mac-Haydn production, lots of them get the super-good singing of Angela Travino as Reno Sweeney. Her ability to give a phrase meaning, shape and nuance, especially in the verses that precede choruses, is a very good thing. The singing of that role can easily slip into unpleasant, raw belting, but Travino would never.

Singers who can act are to be treasured, and the easy personhood of her work is typical of the actors’ approach in this production. Director Robin Levine apparently has made the choice: avoid most of the schticky stuff that the material seems to beg for; and the actors know how to execute.

In spite of struggles in the upper register of his rich baritone, Sam Pickart makes the role of Billy appealing and real. Darrel Blackburn as Moonface Martin never relies on excessive exaggeration or surface. Megan Hasse gives the often dullsville ingénue role of Hope verve and particularity. Cathy Lee Visscher avoids standard, snobby-matron syndrome and makes the character’s moneyed obtuseness pitiably human and funny.

Departing most from traditional characterization is Dakota Dutcher as Lord Evelyn. No stuffed-shirt Brit is Dutcher. The character’s exuberant self that bursts out in “The Gypsy in Me” is perhaps the peak of the show.

One of the male dancers draws particular focus because of his especially sharp, smooth, hyper-energized, character-driven way of delivering the choreography. That’s dancing! Sorry I can’t deliver a name.

Costume designer Jimm Halliday deserves to share star billing. (Everything goes!) Early on, he gives Dutcher’s Lord Evelyn a wacky outfit that foretells the character’s explosion, and overall, Halliday’s red, white, and blue theme glues things together. Multiple shades and patterns of that blue are commandeered. His reds are cherry and his whites virginal, except when they reveal a hint of girlish behinds or when the designer wittily punctuates an elegant all-white ensemble with small, sassy, cherry-red gloves. Textures (creamy satin, metallic sequins, funky fringe, phony fur and feathers, obedient navy suiting, and flowing organza and silk) are abundant and almost pornographic.

All the ensemble singing is crisp and well rehearsed. Dialogue, song, and orchestra suffer from decibel bloat (a bow to the deaf generation?), and sometimes the stage is too crowded and shapeless, but the busy plot is satisfyingly resolved when all the lovers get properly sorted and coupled.

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