Gary Tipton & Jennifer Poliskie in Anything Goes. Photo courtesy of As Yet Unnamed Theatre Co.
Music & Lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay & Russell Crouse
Directed & choreographed by Sandy Richens Cohrs
Review by Jane Mattingly
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Jane Mattingly. All rights reserved.
After hurriedly wading through a sea of rainwater and NRA attendees on the way to the Kentucky Center on Friday night, I was pleased to discover the hallway leading to the MeX stairs overflowing with audience members in line to see the As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company’s latest musical comedy, and hearing “sold out” among the crowd’s murmurs. There was some sort of hold or technical difficulty preventing us from being herded upstairs until about ten minutes before Curtain, and I never found out why, but it amusingly made it seem that much more like we were all boarding the S.S. American ourselves. The house was buzzing, and the huge cast fearlessly plunged right into that energy and delivered an incredibly lively, fun and sharp production.
We find ourselves aboard an ocean liner sailing from New York City to London, aside passengers looking for romance, money, lost eyeglasses, and everything in between. The show moves at a quick, consistent pace, calming down and taking a breath at all of the right moments. The cast does a nice job of working together to drive it as a team, with certain characters gliding in and out of the spotlight without shouldering any extra pressure to push the show along, and all are on top of their comedic moments throughout. There are so many of these stand out characters and moments, two of which being less-than-threatening gangsters, Bonnie and Moonface Martin (Jessica Tanselle and Brad Lambert). This duo is hysterical together and steal the show several times. Gary Tipton, whom also designed and built the clean, functional set, offers a delightfully dorky and classy Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, while Jack Lowe barrels on and offstage as the hilariously high strung, drunken Elisha J. Whitney.
Daniel Smith is rock solid as Billy Crocker, balancing humor with sincerity, and has many sweet moments with Jenna Ryan as Hope Harcourt, their duets, “It’s Delovely” and “All Through the Night”, allowing calm among the chaos. Jennifer Poliskie is a strong Reno Sweeny, leading her impressive ensemble of Angels, consisting of Rebecca Chaney, Emily Grimany, and Katie and Victoria Hay, who are all skilled tappers. Halfway through the first act, “Heaven Hop” gives an exciting taste of the superb dancing showcased in this production, which leads to the Act One finale, “Anything Goes,” whose dance break I can only describe as a human fireworks show – I couldn’t get enough.
Cohrs’ choreography is tight, natural, and makes good use of The MeX’s angles and space limitations. She shows a nice range between the grand, elaborate numbers like “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” and smaller ones such as “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “Be Like the Bluebird,” which consist of more simple and succinct but well composed movements. Her attention to detail shows through in some little embellishments throughout, like various wittily timed sound cues, and the addition of tambourines and an actual trumpet, played by Daniel Smith, during “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” which was a nice addition to the otherwise canned music. The recording was being played maybe just one or two levels too loudly, making it difficult to hear the soloists at points, but the ensemble’s sound was sturdy overall. This Anything Goes is pure joy to watch, and it deserves just as full and energetic of an audience as opening night’s house for the remainder of their performances.
May 20, 21, 27, 28 @ 8 p.m.
May 22 & 29 @ 2:30 p.m.
The As Yet Unnamed Theatre Company
at The MeX Theatre
Kentucky Center for the Arts
501 W. Main St.
Louisville, KY 40202
Jane Mattingly grew up on the ballet stage but got mixed up with some theatre folks along the way and hasn’t looked back. A Louisville native and former LEO Weekly contributor, Jane holds a BA in English from the University of Louisville and has acted and directed with local theatre companies such as The Bard’s Town, Finnigan Productions, The Alley Theater, and WhoDunnit. She works as a baker and enjoys square dancing and hiking.