Director Nick Ishimaru’s Classic Musical Hits the High Notes!
by Rachel Norby
First performed in 1934, “Anything Goes” is an excellent reminder of the lovely things that could happen if we would disconnect from our electronics and engage with other people, live and in person.
Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” is a classic tale of boy meets girl; and girl gets engaged to another man. To win her back, this boy stows away on an ocean liner—where his boss, a few minor mobsters, and the engaged couple are passengers.
In our current age of instant messages and virtual contact, the witty banter of “Anything Goes” may inspire you to get out and converse with real people. The farcical intrigue of the characters is a delightful respite from the struggles of our world.
Director Nick Ishimaru and his crew have ensured smooth transitions for each superbly designed set, allowing us to understand each scene.
Juanita Harris exudes wealth and opulence as Mrs. Harcourt, the mother of heiress Hope Harcourt (delightful Jas Cook). The status-obsessed mother is quite pleased with the match between her daughter and Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (hilarious Nick Nakashima). The marriage promises status and money for both mother and daughter.
Little does Mrs. Harcourt know of the feelings that her daughter still harbors for Billy Crocker, a friendly yet wealth-deprived suitor (pitch-perfect Matt Skinner). She knows even less of his plans to win over Hope.
Skinner’s Billy Crocker is honest and down-to-earth; but when he is mistaken for an infamous mobster, the hijinks erupt. Regardless of his role or his disguises, Skinner’s excellent singing voice hits all the right notes every time.
Ashley Cowl dazzles as Reno Sweeney, a charismatic lounge singer who seems to know everyone on the ship. Her gowns change with the scenes, in an exquisite demonstration of the luxury she values.
Nick Nakashima’s preeminent performance as Lord Evelyn perfectly embodies the obtuse buffoon who is Hope’s fiancée. He delivers his lines as though he himself were the inspiration for the absurd character he plays. His wardrobe of tuxedo and dressing gown complement his wonderful, absent-minded arrogance.
Heather Orth as Moonface Martin epitomizes a 1930s gangster—at least, as they are depicted in 30s films. Orth impressively invokes that 30s movie gangster drawl. Moonface is disguised as a nun—so his/her intimidating movements are merely silly.
Who’s going to be afraid of a nun? Moonface’s awkwardness results in a delightful, comic display, which Orth executes brilliantly.
The impeccably synchronized dance numbers round out this this fantastic “Anything Goes.” The dapper sailors lead the tap-dancing and the whole company engages in at least one tap routine. It’s all incredible to behold! Don’t miss this happy revival of a classic musical.
“Anything Goes” –music & lyrics by Cole Porter, original book by Guy Bolten, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay, & Russel Crouse, new book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman, directed by Nick Ishimaru, at 42ndStreet Moon, San Francisco. Info: 42ndStMoon.org – to March 12, 2023.
Cast: Ashley Cowl, Matt Skinner, Heather Orth, Jas Cook, Nick Nakashima, Gary Stanford, Jr., Juanita Harris, Kyle Arrouzet, Paige Collazo, Tony Conaty, Roy Eikleberry, Paul Hovannes, Catrina Manahan, Renee DeWeese Moran, Dustin Riggs, Jill Smith, Katherine Stein, and Chloe Wintersteen.
Banner photo: Nick Nakashima, Juanita Harris, & Ashley Cowl. Photos: Daniel Thomas