ANYTHING GOES at Cocoa Village Playhouse. Photo by Megan Abbott.
By PAM HARBAUGH
A complex story line, a huge variety of costumes and intricate, syncopated music have all come together on stage at Cocoa Village Playhouse to do one simple thing — entertain.
It’s Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” which opened Friday and runs through Feb. 10 at the Cocoa Village Playhouse.
The musical is known best for its music and lyrics by the legendary Cole Porter. Indeed, try to even think “anything goes” without humming “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was look on as something shocking…”The storyline comes from the original book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse. Created at the height of the Art Deco movement when glamor was both king and queen, the musical is set on a luxury ocean liner making its way from New York to London. The main characters are earnest stock broker Billy Crocker, a beautiful young heiress Hope Harcourt, stuffy English aristocrat Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, popular evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and notorious criminal Moonface Martin who is trying to avoid the law.
“It’s classic musical theater,” said Jason Carl Crase, who plays Billy Crocker. “My character runs into Hope, his love interest, who he hasn’t seen in months only to discover that she is boarding the ship to be married to Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. They are sailing to England to be married.
“The plot sort of has a bunch of holes, so you use your imagination to fill them in. It’s more about delivering musical numbers.”
Here, those numbers are choreographed by Tracy Wines and Martha Seymour. Wines is owner and teacher of Marta’s Legacy Dance Studio and Seymour is the director of the Golden Steppers, a wildly popular senior dance company.
One of regional, community and academic theater’s most popular musicals, “Anything Goes” has a storied history and has been produced four times on Broadway. Its most recent production was in 2011 where it won three Tony Awards including one for actress Sutton Foster, whose performance of Reno Sweeney was hailed as brilliant.
The musical has four librettos. Cocoa Village Playhouse is using the 1962 libretto. The complicated action includes Billy Crocker boarding the SS American to say bon voyage to his boss and to Reno Sweeney, who is thoroughly infatuated with the young man. But Billy has eyes for Hope, who happens to be onboard.
In the meantime, Billy innocently helps Moonface Martin disguise himself as a priest. Knowing Billy would like to stay onboard the SS American to pursue Hope, Moonface rewards the young man by giving him the passport and ticket of his partner in crime, who has missed the boat.
Whew. This is just setting the stage. Complications ensue, setting the stage for a wealth of jokes and silly situations.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Crase said. “A lot of hijinks. “
And the musical has a legendary history almost as complicated as its plot:
The original work came from an idea of Broadway producer Vinton Freedley who commissioned Bolton and Wodehouse to write the libretto. That original libretto included a shipwreck. But the timing was indelicate given a tragedy involving a ship fire which killed scores of people. Because the original writers were busy with other projects, Freedley went to a second team, Howard Lindsay and Guy Bolton, who rewrote the storyline.
Its title is also a piece of showbiz legend. The title reportedly comes from actor William Gaxton agreeing to make an early entrance. “If the show could be said to be about anything, it’s about improvising and vamping your way out of a tight corner,” wrote The New York Times.Leading performers in the cast of nearly 50 performers include: Sara DaSilva as Reno Sweeney, Amy Lacy as Bonnie, Brian Smith as Moonface Martin, Kayla Canada as Hope Harcourt and Brenda Sheets as Evangeline Harcourt.
Its big numbers include: “I Get a Kick Out of You,” and, of course, “Anything Goes.” Other popular numbers from the show include the more romantic songs “You’re the Top” and “It’s Delovely.”
“The tap numbers are just wonderful,” Crase said. “They are all very polished and tight. We have a good group of dancers for this show, too, so it’s that much better.”
The show is directed by Anastacia Hawkins Smith and music directed by Bob Barone, who conducts the 13-member pit orchestra. It is scenic designed by Joseph Lark Riley who has turned the CVP stage into the deck of an ocean liner with plenty of room for the big dance numbers.
There are nearly 200 costumes all of them designed or coordinated by CVP’s popular costume designer Dan Hill, who also has a turn on stage as Evelyn Oakleigh.
There are fur coats, lavish sequined dresses, shimmery chorine gowns and sparkling accessories galore.
All that makes for as much action offstage as on, Crase said.
“I always say we should set up a webcam back there,” he said. “It’s hilarious. If the audience could only see what happens backstage. It’s a riot. We have such small wing space so a lot of people set up quick changes in the workshop. Reno Sweeney has a very quick change.”
But since this is Cocoa Village Playhouse’s revival of a 2005 production, chances are, they’ve figured out all the complicated goings on, both on stage and off.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Anything Goes” runs through Feb. 10 at the Cocoa Village Playhouse, 300 Brevard Ave., Cocoa, FL. Tickets are $28 general, $26 seniors, students and active military and $20 for children. Call 321-636-5050 or visit CocoaVillagePlayhouse.com.
This is an edited version of a story running in Melbourne Beachsider.