‘Anything Goes’ Deserves Kudos

El Vaquero Staff Writer

Picture this: a betrothed debutante and the quick-witted stowaway she loves aboard a doomed luxury ship of titanic proportion.
Okay, now forget all that.

The tub in question does not sink, and neither does the theater arts department’s rendition
of the musical comedy
“Anything Goes,” with music by
Cole Porter.

Originally, the storyline was going that way — the ship was doomed to sink in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean — but was rewritten by producer Vinton Freedley in the 1930s when an actual ship, the S.S. Moorehouse, went down off the coast of New Jersey. I guess it was too soon
to reproduce a similar tragedy
on stage.

Yet it was not too soon for theater arts chair Ken Gray to bring the rewrite to life on
the auditorium’s main stage,
and he did.

He may have gone overboard, in fact, a literal possibility since the stage was brilliantly converted into the main and upper decks of a luxury liner, with the orchestra playing on the latter next to a steam pipe. Hydraulics even lift the stage to reveal two stateroom sets below. Kudos go out to set and lighting designer Guido Girardi.
The voyage includes Billy Crocker (Simon Vahlne), a broken down Wall Street broker who falls for a woman he had a fling with one night, Hope Harcourt (Adina De Fede).

He sneaks on to the ship en route to England to stop her from marrying eccentric gentleman Evelyn Oakleigh, hilariously played by Michael Abramson, who she has to marry in order to replenish the fortune her family lost during the 1929 stock market crash. Therefore, she cannot follow her heart back to Billy.

There is, of course, a hitch in Billy’s plan, namely Snake Eyes Johnson, a fugitive the FBI believes is on board and
in disguise.

Because Billy took his ticket — his partner in crime Moonface Martin (Francisco Crow) gives it to him when Snake Eyes “misses the boat” — he has to continually duck the captain and stewards who think he is the dead gangster. The real reason they are after him may surprise you.

Vahlne and De Fede play their individual roles completely but lack the chemistry necessary to convince audiences that Billy and Hope are crazy about each other.

More believable is the relationship Billy shares with Reno Sweeney (Bonnie McMahan), a renowned nightclub singer with a Katharine Hepburn-like wit who loves him but at the same time is willing to help him pursue another woman.

McMahan’s performance steals the show as she leads the cast in several orchestra numbers, some of which included tap dancing. The choreography was in synch.

Other numbers like “It’s De-Lovely” and “Friendship” were superb.
Basically, the story is about a love triangle. Who will end
up with whom? Will there be
a happy ending? Could the
ship sink after all?

Find out in the Glendale College auditorium Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8 p.m. through March 13.

Rating: * * * * (out of four)