Elizabeth Youngman Westphal
Special to The Village News
When I said, "'Anything Goes' is the best musical this year," Gary Lewis, SDMT co-founder standing near his cofounding wife Erin, retorted with wide eyes, "It's only February."
Even so, it will be a tall order to outperform, out sing, or out tap this large cast directed by Omri Schein. Casting director Jill Townsend deserves high praise for putting this zany and talented cast on stage in front of Schein.
Schein's fingerprint is all over Cole Porter's recreated classic "Anything Goes." Furthermore, Schein's stamp on all-things silly can be recognized from the opening tomfoolery to the closing sashay by Lord Oakleigh. His directorial genius is felt throughout. It's like getting a whole box of nuts and chews wrapped in a beautiful box topped by a big red bow. It's that good.
Everything about this production is top drawer including Tennessee-based Rick Deussen's spectacularly attractive, yet functional set design. Along with master electrician Michelle Miles' lighting design, while appearing simple, in fact, requires a great deal of finesse. Rounding out the tech side is sound designer Brandon Ali Boomizad. Thanks to him, every tap and innuendo could be heard clearly to the back wall.
Meanwhile, it was the deft hands of costume co-designers Janet Pitcher and Chong Mi Land working with fairies that costumed this cast. Every outfit is well tailored and appropriate to character plus accessorized with good hair and wigs by Monique Hanson, especially Reno's red hair and Erma's blond tips.
Keeping the fast-paced tunes on tempo is SDMT's newest musical director Van Angelo. Since this show requires great choreography to keep it contemporary, applause, applause, applause goes to choreographer Xavier J. Bush! He pays homage to Busby Berkley's synchronized tap extravaganzas of the 1930's, but Bush adds his own swag to keep true to the era as performed by this quick-footed cast.
When the first note leaves Reno Sweeney's (Allison Spratt Pearce) lips, the course is set for smooth sailing as passengers prepare to board the SS American. A one-time evangelist, Sweeney now travels with her back-up singers she calls Angels. Pearce's voice is clear, powerful, and articulate, her comedic timing faultless, and her sassy swager is eye-catching. She shines from her very first high kick to her final paradiddle. (Look it up).
Stealing focus with her entrances is Erma Latour (Jazmine January). She is dazzling. While her appearances shouldn't detract from the other players, Erma can't help herself. She is a singing wrecking ball and a joy to behold. January plays Erma Latour with guile, sexual innuendo, and assurance.
January should not be overlooked this year for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Comedy. Her characterization is flawless. For once, her talent is in-your-face and center stage. She has never been better. Bravo!
That said, all of the performers show up with their A-game too. While Reno and Erma set a high bar, the rest of the cast keeps pace.
Like love-struck Billy Crocker (Anthony Michael Vacio) who flat out ignores his boss's order to return to their Wall Street office. Instead, Billy assumes another's identity and sneaks onboard to woo his one-true love Hope away from her mother's watchful eye. As Mrs. Harcourt (Wendy Waddell) arranges a marriage ceremony with the ship's captain for her only daughter, ingénue Hope Harcourt (Christianne Holly Santiago), to the fabulously wealthy Lord Oakley (Zane Davis), Billy creates as much mayhem as one lovelorn fella can.
See how silly it gets? But look who wrote it. Originally written in 1934 by none other than Britain's own P.G. Wodehouse in collaboration with Guy Bolton, this play was revised in 1987 by Howard Lindsay and John Weidman, and then re-re-written by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, and again updated in 2011...and here we are today. "Anything Goes" is fresh and de-lightful again.
The SS American's Captain (Kara Tuckfield) is aided by the ship's purser (Cody Bianchi) and a crew of dancing sailors: Ian Black, Shannon Gerrity, Isaac Jackson, and Eli Wood.
Passengers continue to board, while unbeknownst to anyone, the 13th most-wanted man in the land is also sneaking onboard. Moonface Martin (Eliott Goretsky) is escaping the FBI dressed as a preacher, he is the least likeliest wolf in vicar's clothing and ruthlessly charming. Don't we all just adore a bad boy?
Simultaneously, the real minister, Henry T. Dobson (Dan Mason) is apprehended by the FBI in his stead leaving Dobson's wards on their own. As it turns out, Dippy (Carly Salway) and Spit (Ava Francis) quickly return to their old sinning ways.
The snappy music is familiar as the Angels tap their way across the deck. There's Purity (Johnisa Breault), Chastity (Sophia Larosh), Charity (Victoria Villamil), and Virtue (Ellie Barrett) stepping out in perfect unison. Their vocals are equally appealing.
Poor Elisha Whitney (Dave Rivas) is the bumbling industrialist who somehow wins Mrs. Harcourt's hand by the end of the cruise. Not poor in the sense of economics, but his bungling ways, Riva has a crooner's voice and uses it masterfully.
The last two members of this huge cast of 23, not seen, are understudies Marlon Magtiby and Katey Konderik-Oducayen although they may be included in the crowd scenes, they couldn't be identified.
The congratulations go to the entire cast, techs, minions-at-large (Jennifer Glor, Shirley Johnston, Chaunsa Oyos, and Rogelio Rosales), Schein, and the Lewis's for assembling a show with only one message: to entertain. It's de-lovely. Rated as this year's first 10 out of 10.
"Anything Goes" is playing until March 12 at 4650 Mercury Street, 92111. Get your tickets at http://www.sdmt.org or call 858-560-5740. Lots of free parking.
Curtain Call Company is opening with "Steel Magnolias" this March. There are only four evening performances plus a couple of matinees. Dates are March 17, 18, 31 and April 1. Order tickets early at http://www.curtaincallcompany.com or call Mary Fry at 760-723-2724. All performances are at Christ the King Lutheran Church, 1620 S. Stage Coach Lane in Fallbrook.
The "Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekov will run at North Coast Repertory March 8 to April 1, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Dr. Suite D, Solana Beach. For tickets, call 858-481-1055 or visit https://northcoastrep.org.
Great things are coming to The Cygnet Theatre starting March 29; Noel Coward's "Present Laughter" opens for a long run. Meanwhile, check this out. A group trip to New York's Broadway then on to Washington D.C. for more live theatre set for Oct. 7-16. For details, visit https://www.cygnettheatre.com/ or call 619-337-1525.
Playing at the Moxie Theater is "GunTOPIA" presented by The Roustabouts Theatre from March 16 to April 2, 6663 El Cajon Blvd Ste N. For tickets, call 619-568-5800 or visit https://www.theroustabouts.org/.
Diversionary Theatre will close "The High Table" on March 5 but continues with their Cabaret nights at 4545 Park Blvd. The Box Office can be reached at 619-220-0097.
SRT's "Lucky Stiff" is moving to the co-producer's location at the Brooks Theatre by Oceanside Theatre Company at 217 North Coast Highway. For tickets, call 760-433-8900.
"Sunday at the Park with George" is currently showing at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. I'll see the show next Saturday, but in the meantime you may wish to plan ahead by getting your tickets early. It's at 340 N. Escondido Blvd., 760-839-4149 or https://artcenter.org/.
La Jolla Playhouse presents the west coast premiere of the new musical based on the film "The Outsiders" with performances running until April 2. Save money when you see preview nights before the official opening next month. Double check to see if the construction is completed. Located at 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla, 858-550-1010 or https://lajollaplayhouse.org/.
Lambs Players continues with their 1960's musical revue "R*E*S*P*E*C*T" until April 9 at 1142 Orange Avenue in Coronado. It's a fabulously entertaining 90-minutes filled with the best music ever! For tickets, call 619-437-6000 or visit https://www.lambsplayers.org/.
In its 45th Season, Broadway San Diego closes "Mean Girls" March 5 followed by a few performances of "Riverdance," April 11-13. For tickets, call 619-564-3000 or visit https://www.broadwaysd.com/.
At The Old Globe in Balboa Park, "Under a Baseball Sky" continues until March 12. Call 619-234-5623 or visit https://www.theoldglobe.org/.
San Diego Ballet will perform "Viva Vivaldi: Vivaldi's Four Seasons" on March 9 and 10 at 7:30 p.m. at 8800 Grossmont College on that campus. Call 619-294-7378 or visit https://sandiegoballet.org.
Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].