On Stage

On Stage

‘ANYTHING GOES’ SAILS SMOOTHLY AT WSU

By Russell Florence, Jr.

'Anything Goes'

Lively dancing, colorful performances and Cole Porter’s sublime score keep Wright State University’s commendable production of Anything Goes pleasantly afloat. The revised 1987 libretto by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman remains jokey and silly with a tendency to drag in spots, but when the music arrives joy abounds on the S.S. American.

Jenyth Rosati hits the Ethel Merman-esque mark as sassy nightclub singer/evangelist Reno Sweeney, enjoyably belting the lilting “I Get A Kick Out of You” and giving great punch to the rousing “Blow Gabriel Blow.” Kenneth Foster passes the challenging tenor test that comes with the role of Billy Crocker. He conquers a slew of tough notes in such beautiful songs as “Easy to Love” and “All Through the Night.” Notable duets include Rosati and Foster’s charming “You’re the Top” and Lizzy Miller (Hope Harcourt) and Foster’s crisp and debonair execution of  “It’s De-lovely.”

Appealing featured turns extend to Ian DeVine (gangster Moonface Martin), the nearly scene-stealing Casey Jordan (the stuffy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh), Hilary Fingerman (whose first-rate performance as Erma concludes with a playful rendition of “Buddie, Beware”) and the tuneful sailors quartet consisting of Blaine Boyd (of last season’s fantastic Light in the Piazza), Zach Cossman, James Oblak and Justin Talkington.

Ryan Bochnowski’s lighting design is too busy at times, but it doesn’t distract from the stateliness of Mark Halpin’s set or the prettiness of D. Bartlett’s Blair’s costumes.

The energetic title number, featuring a terrific tap duel, is one of many moments excellently co-choreographed by director Greg Hellems and Amber Preston. Musical director Rick Church’s outstanding orchestra provides
additional sparkle.

Anything Goes continues through Sunday, November 14 in the Creative Arts Center on the campus of Wright State University, 3640 Col. Glenn Hwy. Performances are Wednesday at 7 p.m. (Nov. 3 only), Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 and $19. Call (937) 775-2500.

DELIGHTFUL ‘39 STEPS’ AT LOFT THEATRE

The Human Race Theatre Company stages a delightful local premiere of Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps, adapted from the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock film of the same name. This farcical caper, sprinkled with clever nods to multiple Hitchcock films and propelled by murder, mayhem, intrigue and high comedy complete with super thick accents, is a fine fit for director Joe Deer and his compatibly
goofy ensemble.

The reliably funny Richard Marlatt (a standout in Deer’s splendid production of Lend Me a Tenor last season) reiterates his knack for physical comedy as the falsely accused Richard Hannay, who is desperately trying to clear his name while journeying through England and Scotland. Allison Moody winningly counters early on as alluring spy Annabella Schmidt, and is also very good as Pamela and Margaret.

The marvelously kooky duo of Bruce Cromer and Jake Lockwood effortlessly assume over 100 roles with a quick change of a hat or dress. The moment in which they simultaneously portray a newspaper boy and train passenger (Cromer, Clown #1) and a train conductor and policeman (Lockwood, Clown #2) is an absolute knockout.

Adam Koch’s sleek, black and gray soundstage set, Janet Powell’s attractive period costumes and John Rensel’s moody lighting design are also noteworthy.

The 39 Steps continues through Sunday, November 7 at the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St. Performances are Wednesday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18.50-$40. For tickets or more information, call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit www.TicketCenterStage.com

ADMIRABLE ‘DIVINERS’ AT UD

The University of Dayton offered an admirable presentation of Jim Leonard, Jr.’s Depression-era, small town comic drama The Diviners, staged October 22-30.

Director Louan Hilty’s straightforward, text-driven production, efficiently designed by Darrell Anderson, was firmly and respectively led by Patrick Lillis and Alex Chilton in the central roles of Buddy Layman, a sensitive young boy terrified of water, and former minister C.C. Showers, Buddy’s cynical, disillusioned confidant grappling with his faith.

SEED THEATRE POSTPONES ‘GREY GARDENS’

SEED Theatre Project’s local premiere of Doug Wright, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie’s musical Grey Gardens, based on the 1975 documentary of the same name and originally slated for this weekend, has been postponed to June 2011. A cast member accepted a role in a professional production out of state and a replacement was unable to be found at such short notice. All patrons who purchased tickets will be refunded. For more information, call Leigh at (937) 219-7835 or send him an e-mail at adam@seedtheatreproject.org.

BIG APPLE UPDATE

The National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s 22nd annual Festival of New Musicals presented eight prospects October 21 and 22 at New York’s New World Stages. My schedule only allowed for four presentations, but I was particularly taken with Heartbreakers, Robert Cary, Benjamin Feldman and David Gursky’s very funny and tuneful adaptation of the 2001 Sigourney Weaver/Jennifer Love Hewitt film that could be the next Legally Blonde, The Musical.

Regarding Broadway, I found The Scottsboro Boys, the final collaboration between John Kander and Fred Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago), to be a stunning triumph for director/choreographer Susan Stroman (The Producers) in the vein of the great Harold Prince. The moving, poignant and unnerving tale of nine black men falsely accused of raping two white women in 1930s Alabama, daringly presented in the context of a minstrel show, also serves as a definitive tribute to Kander and Ebb’s envelope-pushing legacy.

Reach DCP A&C editor/
theater critic Russell Florence,
Jr. at cultureeditor@
daytoncitypaper.com


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