42ND STREET MOON IS BUBBLY WITH A DE-LOVELY COLE PORTER CELEBRATION
THE SS AMERICAN IS A FULL THROTTLE “LET'S MISBEHAVE” FROM THE GENIUS BOOK OF COLE PORTER TUNES WITH A “YOU’RE THE TOP” CAST AND CREW
Review by Vince Mediaa
The SS American cruise ship and ANYTHING GOES has parked at Gateway Stage only through March 12 and it is de-lovely. 42nd Street Moon opens its celebrated 30th season of great theatre with a Cole Porter classic. This “pop” of a champagne bottle is sure to bring a smile to anyone who attends this “Friendship” excuse for song and dance. Back in 1934 this show premiered with a young Ethel Merman, it was considered a bit risque, but this company reminds us that no matter how mindless this ship is, ANYTHING GOES is an American classic.
Director Nick Ishimaru, has assembled an excellent company of gender neutral casting that brightens this classic. Under his sassy direction the eighteen-person cast of 42nd Moon presents a bubbly revival of this classic: ANYTHING GOES features Porter's best tunes including “You’re the Top”, “I Get a Kick Out of You” “It's De-Lovely” and “Friendship”. The script was written by creator P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton and Russel Crouse. This 1987 version has been revised by his son, Tim Crouse, and John Weidman. It is a cruise ship still in motion including the clever updates Ishimaru added to his celebration of Cole Porter. Finally it was great to see the stereotypical Chinese characters replaced, and the very funny Moonface Martin played by a female actor dressed in a Nuns habit.
This priceless cast is on course - everyone of them from the A list of local stages. The swank powerhouse Ashley Cowl as Reno Sweeney sings the opening number “I Get a Kick Out of You” as she flirts with Billy Crocker played by the impressive Matt Skinner. Reno controls this ship, belting out Porter's songs, she later sings the classic “You’re The Top” with the dapper stowaway Billy, and they both charmed the 42nd St Moon sold out opening night crowd.
The story, of course, is a love slapstick sitcom with all the standard plot twists and madness of 30’s musicals. ANYTHING GOES was written back in 1934 when humor was blatantly derogatory, this was tossed overboard by 42nd Moon company. The accomplished Roy Eilkeberry and Paige Collazo, who play the two gambling stowaways.
The show is hilarious; a Marx Brothers romp, featuring star-crossed lovers, mistaken and hidden identities, and enough one-liners and slapstick to keep the audience giggling on a sea of laughter. “I get no kick from champagne. Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all. So, tell me why should it be true that I get a kick out of you?” the theme of this Broadway Icon. The young stockbroker Billy Crocker played by the savvy and talented Matt Skinner, who shows off his first rate voice. Crocker is in love with debutante Hope Harcourt played by the pitch perfect Jas Cook who is set to marry Sir Oakleigh, played by the ideal Nick Nakashima.
Local favorite Gary Stanford Jr. plays the blinded boss Mr. Whitney who is misdirected throughout the story. It is always a pleasure to see Stanford on stage; he is a fixture of Bay Area Theatre. The frisky Juanita Harris plays Hope’s mom, Mrs. Harcourt, with her furry dog in her arms; she is very funny in the role and elegant in Lisa Danz costumes. In less polished productions the story can become merely a vessel for the songs. This certainly doesn’t happen on the Gateway stage.
42nd St Moon in the past has just featured a piano for their musicals, but for this production a four member band includes Music Director, Dave Dobrusky, featuring Jason Park, Victor Serda, David Dieni and Dobrusky on Piano. The live music fits the energy for the SS American. Cowl and company are infectious during the icon tap dance number “Anything Goes” choreographed by the gifted Robyn Tribuzi, it includes the whole company in a show stopping classic that ends the first act.
The story embraces the “Guys and Dolls” perfection as the low end, comic sidebar gangster, Moonface Martin, played by the one of the best actors in the Bay Area - the award honored Heather Orth. She transforms Moonface into a hilarious mobster with the best one liners in the show “be like the bluebird and sing tweet tweet”. The terrific Jillian A Smith plays Erma the female gangster and is perfect in “Buddie Beware”. The female leads are dressed to shine by Lisa Danz’s gowns; they at times steal the show. Reno is always in satin and is highlighted by the brilliant costumes especially in the over the top show stopping second act company number “Blow Gabriel”.
The SS American designed by the clever Kuo-Hao Lo, his set is a very vintage Cruise ship full of door exits as each character enters like a Benny Hill Sketch. Lo’s set for the Hillbarn production was a bit richer but the Gateway stage is a smaller space. The lighting design by Sean Keeban is colorful, “Blow Gabriel” has some of the best back lighting that highlights the cast number. Props include two stuffed dogs that are cuddly, and all the champagne glasses, gambling cards, and Moonface’s guns you need to make this voyage. Stage managers Nicole Heller and Jakob Berfnardino have to keep the cast entering from all corners of the ship, and the many doorway comic moments are well timed.
Tap dancing is what we come to see on this ship and Assistant Director Tribuzi choreography is highlighted by the high stepping “All Through The Night” and “Gabriel”. Other players to mention include the classy Head Captain played the proud Paul Hovannes who brings his comic touch to “Public Enemy Number One”. The sailor company includes the talented Kyle Arrouzet as the ship's busy Purser and keen dance captain Tony Conaty and Dustin Riggs make perfect bouncy sailors and keep the show bright and a delight. The sexy glam Angels that shadow Reno include Catrina Manahan and Renee DeWeese.
Throughout the show the cast is universally strong and apparently delighted to be singing and dancing together. Director Ishimasru keeps this production impressively high energy; you get wonderful positive jazz hands that sizzle on stage. ANYTHING GOES is an Icon of American Musical history and a delight. Next up at 42nd St Moon is SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD, a concert that opens March 13th. But in the meantime this dazzling diamond is the best way to start your spring theatre season. Don’t miss this fun romp and bring your own champagne glass, tickets are going fast so book soon.
42ND STREET MOON PRESENTS
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter Original Book by P.G. Wodehouse & Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse New Book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman
Directed by Nick Ishimaru
Associate Director/Choreographer: Robyn Tribuzi
Music Director: Dave Dobrusky
Must close March 12th 2023
215 Jackson St, San Francisco, CA 94111
Two hours 20 min with an intermission
Photos by: Ben Krantz Studio