STRONG ENSEMBLE The cast of Anything Goes.
A ballsy young stock broker, a wealthy young ingénue, an evangelist-turned-nightclub singer, and a gangster and his moll Bonnie — a rich array of American archetypes will encounter each other aboard the S.S. American, in the Cole Porter classic Anything Goes. The irreverent 1934 comedy, which includes the favorite standards "I Get a Kick Out of You" and the so very witty title song, is on stage in South Portland at Lyric Music Theater, in a nimble, snappily paced, powerfully sung community theater production, directed by Celeste Green with music direction by Rebekkah Willey.
After we're transported to a filmic Golden Age of comedy, via a projected black-and-white opening-credits sequence, we find ourselves on the deck of the luxury ocean liner, an impressive double-story set with two spiraling staircases and plenty of berth doors fitted with tempting little blue-lit portholes (Don Smith's excellent design). On board this ship, upper-class young Hope Harcourt (Kelsey Gibbs) finds herself increasingly bored and unmoved by her fiancé Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (David Bass-Clark), who has the glowing approval of her class-obsessed mother (Cynthia O'Neal). As it happens, Hope some time ago shared a taxi and an immediate infatuation with the much more fun Billy Crocker (Sean Senior), who insinuates himself on board once he glimpses her. Winning her away from Evelyn wouldn't be too hard if it weren't for her mom, but things being as they are, he solicits the help of his old pal Reno Sweeney (Amy Torrey), a vampy, platinum-blonde, formerly devout lounge singer travelling with her back-up Angels, and a new pal, Public Enemy Number 13 Moonface Martin (Adam Normand), travelling incognito as a minister with his hot little number, Bonnie (Alison Bogannan). And so the shipboard high-jinx, berth-hopping, and impersonations begin.
It should first be said that Lyric has some seriously talented performers in this show. Torrey, as the breezily, cheerfully louche Reno, is like a rich and alcohol-drenched dessert; she has a gorgeous voice, a nubile sense of phrasing, and a seductive comic timing. As our lovely ingénue, the golden-haired Gibbs sings like an angel and does an engaging job measuring Hope's fun-loving feistiness and yearning against her sense of filial duty and her frequent irritation with Billy, who in Senior's hands has a serviceable voice and a boyish charm. And as Hope's meticulous Brit, Bass-Clark is fantastic — his quirky, socially oblivious curiosity is hilarious and winning.
The show also has physical comedy in spades among its secondary characters. Normand, the big guy who plays Moonface, actually does have a face like a moon, round, pale and capable of delectably cartoonish expressions of worry, mirth, and insidious intent; he also has some classic big guy-skinny guy antics with Bishop Dobson (the very springy Brian Daley), whose detection he must evade. His partner-in-crime Bonnie is a classic gangster's gal, savvy and kittenish, with plenty of Brooklyn in her high-pitched voice. The show's keen eye for comic types reaches even to minor characters, like the angled skew of the jaw of a female reporter interviewing the ship's guests.