If your only exposure to the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes has been Kate Capshaw's opening dance number in the unfortunate Indiana Jones movie with the kid and the eating-the-brain-of-a-live-monkey scene, you could do worse then heading to Contra Costa Civic Theatre's colorful production. It's cute, and the company has tried to tone down the most ethnically stereotypical bits while punching up the banter.
Even if you've never seen the show, you'll know the music: This is Porter at his lively best, and many of these songs entered the Great American Songbook. As for the book, there were some heavy hitters including P.G. Wodehouse and the men behind The Sound of Music, so it's full of great lines, such as crooner Reno Sweeney slapping down a man who stood her up: "I'd say forget about it, but you already did." Or how about her lovesick friend Billy pretending to be a rich nabob and saying "We have a family suite at Bedlam"? There's a plot, just barely, about a bunch of people sailing from New York to England and getting up to high-jinks -- mistaken identities, gangsters on the lam, and true love triumphing over petty considerations of money and class -- but really, this one is about dance numbers and showing off that Porter could make telling someone that they're cellophane sound like a good thing.
Amy Nielson has the Reno Sweeney look, but not always the pipes; her first song, "I Get a Kick Out of You," was strained and nasal. She showed serious style, however, in the duet "You're the Top" with Tom Reardon as an oddly absent Billy Crocker -- the song was a definite high point, with its assorted physical shenanigans.
Speaking of physical shenanigans, there's some unexpected nun-on-sailor action in the second act. It's clean, mostly, but another sign of how director Mark Manske keeps his big cast entertaining and in motion. Regular CCCT patrons know to play the "Where's Louis?" game, watching for the appearance of the company's beloved and ancient founder; here he shows up three times, once in old-lady drag.
Another regular who makes a welcome showing is young singer and dancer Kerry Wininger. Besides her seven shows at CCCT, audiences may remember her turn as jaded child star Baby Rose in Babes in Arms at the Willows and singing Die Fledermaus for a DLOC fund-raiser. It's admittedly a little weird hearing Baby Rose and/or Baby June all grown up and saying things like "A certain sailor is going to show me the finer points of stoking," but that's what happens; you love 'em and they grow up anyway. It will be interesting to see what happens when Wininger finishes school and is set loose on an unsuspecting world full-time; although her singing voice is still a little thin, her acting and dancing show steady improvement.
As Bonnie the gun moll, Wininger enters with another familiar face, Tom Flynn as "Moonface" Martin, the gangster who doesn't want it nosed around that he isn't Public Enemy Number One -- more like Thirteen, according to Bonnie. Flynn was so sweet as grandfather Nunzio in CCCT's Over the River and Through the Woods a couple of years ago; now he gets to show off a little bit of tough guy that he then totally deflates when he sings "Be Like the Blue Bird" to Billy as they sit in the ship's brig, waiting to see what will become of them.
Although there are the usual CCCT amplification issues, and the cast's dancing skills are underused (only one tap number, which is sad when you see that many of the dancers clearly know how to tap), this Anything Goes is a good little mover. And no monkeys were harmed in its production.
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