Patio players present a classy 'anything goes'
By MARILYN JOZWIK
Published May 1, 2018
“Anything Goes” is about as joyful of a musical as you can get.
Who can’t smile at classic Cole Porter tunes like “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and the musical’s namesake “Anything Goes.”
Falls Patio Players captures all the fun and joy of the show and showcases the wonderful melodies with a top-notch cast, superb orchestra and snappy dance. But what really puts this show in the “You’re the Top” category is the stellar comedy performance by Brant Allen as Moonface Martin, Public Enemy No. 13, who channels a bit of Groucho Marx for his thoroughly entertaining characterization.
The show, directed by Robby McGhee, takes place on a cruise ship in 1934, the fringes of the Roaring Twenties, flapper girls and gangsters. New York broker Billy Crocker (Ethan Brittingham) is on the dock watching his boss Elisha Whitney (Larry Ladin) board the boat to London, as well as a friend, nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Morgen Aria Clarey). But when Billy spots the mysterious woman, whom he fell in love with during a chance meeting, on board he decides to stowaway on the ship to reconnect.
Romp on the boat
The hijinks start as Billy is aided by the inept gangster Moonface, who along with his girlfriend Bonnie (Kendall Yorkey) had disguised themselves to get onboard. Moonface, Bonnie and Reno use all sorts of ploys to get outfits and identities for Billy to help him blend in with the ship’s crowd and meet the girl of his dreams named Hope (Hailey Hentz). Billy learns that Hope is on the boat with her fiancé, a stuffy Brit named Lord Evelyn (Ben Bartos) and Hope’s mother (Jennifer Sciuti), but still professes her love for Billy.
While trying to help Billy, Reno falls in love with the classy Evelyn (pronounced “Eve-lyn”) and the romp is on with Billy, Moonface and Bonnie taking on a variety of impersonations to stay one step ahead of being discovered and thrown in the hoosegow.
There is so much fun going on here and the Porter tunes keep the mood upbeat throughout, especially with the great vocals and orchestra, under the music direction of Julie Johnson, who played keyboards and directed the orchestra on the ship’s “deck.”
Unfortunately, on the Saturday evening I attended there were frequent sound issues that affected several performers, plus the ensemble was under-amplified leaving them sounding weak under the soloists.
Cole Porter tunes
Yet, the performances are wonderful, starting with Allen’s Moonface, a marvelous comic characterization. Best of his bits are his overly dramatic, but hilarious, interruptions of Reno trying to seduce Evelyn and his delightfully silly “Be Like the Bluebird” while he and Billy spend time in the ship’s klink.
Clarey has an easy-going, alluring manner perfect for her Reno character. Her “I Get a Kick Out of You” is a breezy, light as air rendition of the classic Porter piece, plus she looked great and moved great in the slinky, shimmery dresses, especially the mermaid-like green outfit that kept her afloat in Act II.
Moonface’s sidekick, Bonnie, is marvelously handled by Yorkey, who really engages the audience with her high-energy, expressive comic portrayal and vocals, especially in “Heaven Hop,” sung with her “Angel” entourage -- Sydney Kolbeck, Abby Rasmussen, Rebecca Ruiz and Megan Rose Miller.
Brittingham adds some fine vocals and some delightful bits with Moonface, Reno and others, especially the catchy “Friendship” with the trio touting their “perfect blendship.” He handled Billy’s many disguises and impersonations nicely, although his skinny suit pants looked discordant in this 1930s-set musical.
Bartos and Hentz pair nicely as Lord Evelyn and his fiancé Hope. Hentz has a pleasant quality to her performance and vocals, while Bartos is quite likeable as the proper Englishman, who soon realizes how much fun it is to be improper in the tune “Let’s Misbehave.” He kept up quite an authentic British accent throughout the show.
All the ensemble numbers are big, colorful extravaganzas starting with the “Bon Voyage.” Act I ends with the rousing tap piece “Anything Goes,” which even included couples dancing on the deck.
In Act II, “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” is a real crowd pleaser, showcasing the considerable talents of the 11-piece orchestra and some great dancing thanks to choreographer Melissa I Bloch-Meier and dance captain AJ Pawelski.
A tip of the top hat to artistic director Roger Bochek for his set and costume designs. The set’s clean, blue and white theme provided a perfect playground for performers and an eye-pleasing backdrop for the parade of colorful, glittery outfits.
If you go:
Who: Falls Patio Players
What: “Anything Goes”
When: Through May 6
Where: North Middle School Auditorium, N88 W16750 Garfield Drive, Menomonee Falls