If nothing else, this is a welcome chance to see Renee Anderson play Reno Sweeney, “the world’s most sensuous sermonizer.”
Anderson has the perfect voice for Porter’s songs, and she delivers them with swinging clarity. She also plays Reno with a dark, vulnerable edge, giving the character a depth that’s often missing from this fluffy show.
Her “I Get a Kick Out of You” is almost plaintive when she sings it to Billy Crocker (the solid Dallas Lish). She conveys Reno’s love for Billy, but you also hear in her voice that she knows she’ll never have him.
This version of the show has a new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman. Don’t worry: The new book is just as sketchy and vacuous as the old one, with multiple gags of both the verbal and sight varieties.
But nobody goes to see Anything Goes for the plot. The dialogue exists only to fill time between the songs.
And what songs! “You’re the Top,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” “All Through the Night” and “I Get a Kick Out of You” are all standards. Borrowed from Porter’s Red, Hot and Blue, “It’s De-Lovely” was added to the show’s 1962 revival, and remains here.
The production benefits from some strong performances by the supporting cast. Anderson joins Justin Larman, as Moonface Martin, in “Friendship.” (Larman is a promising comic actor: Imagine Jackie Gleason with Rod Steiger’s voice.) Terry Attebery adds credibility to Anything as Wall Street tycoon Elisha Whitney.
Somewhere in the musical director’s handbook, it reads, “When in doubt, tap dance.” Hurleigh ends the first act with a tap-dancing version of the title song that’s solid enough to end the show right there.
Then, the audience wouldn’t have to endure a momentum-killing intermission, and everyone would go home happy. Nobody cares whether Hope Harcourt (the appealing Haley Jane Schafer) marries Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, played with panache by Paul Mitchell.
The production has other appeal.
Mariann Searle leads a six-piece combo that accompanies the show, which takes place on a transatlantic ocean liner. Christopher Domanski’s nautical, multilevel scenic design is fine, if unspectacular, under lighting by him and Jeremy Littlefield.
Summerstock’s stated mission is to present “quality musicals,” a worthy goal. We have more than enough productions of such chestnuts as this and The Music Man, Summerstock’s previous offering this summer. Maybe the company could focus on less-frequently staged shows.