Anything Goes | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Anything Goes 

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ANYTHING GOES, Drury Lane Oakbrook, and ANYTHING GOES, Stage Right Dinner Theatre. It's hard to believe this lightweight 1934 musical came out of the Depression. But its silliness was probably the point. A throwback to such Jazz Age obsessions as flappers and gangsters, the book was reassuringly retro. Americans Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and Brits Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse devised a plot that's a grab bag of novelty numbers, vaudeville turns, now dreadful stereotypes, and antediluvian shtick. Passengers on an anarchic ocean liner are forced to deal with mistaken identities, amorous deceptions, and shameless impersonations. What keeps the material fresh are the Cole Porter classics.

Dispensing with the rewrite for a 1987 Lincoln Center revival, Ray Frewen's staging for Drury Lane Oakbrook restores the anything-for-a-laugh book, where the only sobering touch is a throbber like "I Get a Kick Out of You" or the torch song "All Through the Night." Despite diminished orchestration, this staging is a pretty package thanks to choreographer Tammy Mader's nifty tap routines for "Let's Step Out," "Take Me Back to Manhattan," and the title rouser.

Though no Merman-class belter, Susie McMonagle honors the heavenly high jinks of "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" (though her "Let's Misbehave," performed with Sean Fortunato, is too slow to be fun and too fast to be sexy). Rod Thomas shares the humor as his plucky hero dons various un-PC disguises. And David Lively lives up to his name as mobster Moonface Martin, who becomes a shipboard celebrity after he's exposed as public enemy number 13.

Frank Roberts's loose-limbed, hyperhappy revival of the gag-packed original for Stage Right Dinner Theatre has no rough passages and fares better at laying out the laughs. Peter Verdico's Rodney Dangerfield-like Moonface convincingly croons the cliches in "Be Like the Bluebird" while John Corona's British duffer endears where he could have merely amused. Kirsten Stevens's Reno and Christopher Poremba's Billy are live wires who could electrify the longest ocean voyage. The songs shrink somewhat to fit Stage Right's three-person orchestra, but choreographer Becky Cooper finds the right step for every note.

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