Sunday, March 17, 2013

REVIEW: “Anything Goes” at The Empress Theatre

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Emalee Easton as Reno Sweeny in Anything Goes at The Empress Theatre
Photo Credit: Deanne Rutledge Jones

Climb aboard the S.S. American, where you will sail with a mobster in disguise, a debutante about to marry someone other than the man of her dreams, a stowaway trying to win back the heart of his true love, a famous singer/entertainer, and an Englishman unfamiliar with American culture, among other characters.

Not having heard the story of Anything Goes, I was told that it had adult humor. Because of this, my husband and I decided to leave the kids at home and make it a date night. After seeing the performance, it is something I would definitely take my kids to see, and they would have loved it! The “adult humor” isn’t anything that you would be embarrassed to have your kids hear.

At The Empress Theatre, each show we have attended has its own unique strength that really stands out. For The Christmas Box, it was the emotion; The Scarlet Pimpernel was the singing and humor; Big was the familiar story along with the set and costume design.

For Anything Goes, the obvious strength is the dancing. The performances not only require the actors and actresses to sing, but also to dance. I noticed that most, if not all, of the people in this performance wore tap shoes. Not only will you recognize songs written by Cole Porter, but dances such as the waltz, tap dance, the tango and passe doble make you want to stand up and cheer. We also loved the costume design in this production. It was fun to see the fancy dresses and hair-dos of that time period stand out and help set the scene.

The story of Anything Goes debuted in 1934. It has gone through many revisions over the years, and has won 18 Tonys. It is an icon of American musical theatre. The performance at The Empress Theatre gets you excited about a time in American history when glitz, glamour and romance were the norm.

It is always fun to see how The Empress Theatre building and staff transforms to create an atmosphere appropriate for the production they are doing. For Big, it was Zoltar reading your fortune in the lobby. When you walk in for Anything Goes, the ship’s captain is waiting to take your tickets, and a sailor directs you to your “cabin”. Jake Andersen, the Artistic Director, introduces the show, and keeps with the theme of the cruise ship. He directs you to turn off your cell phone, or it may be “thrown overboard”. These little additions that The Empress Theatre adds to each show is what completes the whole experience.

Emalee Easton plays the role of Reno Sweeny, the famous singer/entertainer (pictured above). She does a fabulous job getting into her role, and demands attention from the audience when she walks onto the stage. We had our eyes on her in each scene she performed in. Her level of high-energy to perform the choreography as well as sing the songs amazed us, and will be one of the top things we remember about Anything Goes. This is Easton’s second show at The Empress Theatre.

Another favorite character was Moonface Martin, the mobster in disguise aboard the S.S. American. Moonface is played by Matthew Green, and this is his first show at The Empress. Listen carefully to the lines he mumbles under his breath; they will have you rolling with laughter! Not only the words, but the delivery of his lines, is what makes Green the perfect person to play this role. We hope to see him in many more roles at The Empress!

The two main characters of Anything Goes are the star-crossed lovers, Billy Crocker and Hope Harcourt, played by Josh Astle and Emily Preston.

Billy becomes a stowaway on the ship hoping to convince Hope to marry him instead of Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, a wealthy Englishman. Watching Billy go through many disguises and a mistaken identity to avoid his boss, Elisha Whitney (played by Steve Hedman), is a fun side-storyline to watch and predict how it will unfold. Astle said that he loved being able to learn to tap dance for this performance, something he never thought he would do.

Emily Preston plays the role of Hope Harcourt. Watching her performance and interaction with co-star Josh Astle as Billy, it is obvious she has a background in dance. It’s fun to see her on-stage relationship with Billy, as well as the relationship she has with her mom (played by Annie Crawford) and fiancé Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (played by Colin Doxey). Lord Evelyn Oakleigh had us chuckling at his misunderstanding of American culture and use of slang terms.

Anything Goes is playing at The Empress Theatre every Monday, Friday and Saturday now until April 13. All tickets are $10, which makes this the perfect family night activity! Make sure to support their concession stands, as they are also very reasonably priced.

A huge thanks to The Empress Theatre for inviting us back to review another show! We always have a great time and enjoy each and every performance! (My mother-in-law just asked me today when the next performance opens at The Empress Theatre! She, as well as we, look forward to seeing each and every show there! My husband commented that Anything Goes is his favorite performance so far at The Empress Theatre!)

I received two complimentary tickets to attend a performance of Anything Goes to write my review. I was not compensated financially for my review, nor was I required or persuaded to write any specific type of review. All views and opinions expressed in this review are honest and are all my own.

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The glamorous backup singers/entertainers for Reno Sweeney
Photo credit: Deanne Rutledge Jones

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