|Matthew Harris and Kat Bailes|
Anything Goes has to be just about the most fun one can have at a musical. Not only does the show have a score by Cole Porter with many well-known gems and a well written comical book, but the current production at Desert Foothills Theater includes some exuberant dance numbers, an effective set, excellent costumes, and a practically perfect cast in both the leads and the ensemble. You will leave the theatre with a big smile on your face, humming the many Porter hit songs as well as singing the praises of the talented cast.
This is one of those shows that has been revised several times since its first Broadway production back in 1934. Songs have been removed as well as other songs added in from other Porter scores. The 1987 version seems to be the one most produced, so it's a treat for Phoenix theatregoers that Desert Foothills Theater is producing the 1962 version, as it's the only one to include "Take Me Back to Manhattan" and "Let's Misbehave", both of which receive terrific versions in this production.
When you have an actress like the knock out Kat Bailes who can not only sing but dance in the lead part of nightclub singer and cruise headliner Reno Sweeney, it is easy to create dance numbers around her talents instead of having to hide your star's lack of dancing skills...choreographer Mary Lee Baker has created some excellent dances for the entire company, including Bailes' Reno. Bailes is like a firecracker in this show, not just with her dancing and singing but with her well-timed comic delivery of her dialogue as well.
Glenn Parker is Moonface Martin, the comical public enemy who is disguised as a minister in order to not get caught. Parker has some great comic bits in the show, gets to do a little singing, which he pulls off well, and is simply fun and lovable to watch. Matthew Harris is Evelyn, the slightly crazy Englishmen that Hope is engaged to marry. He evokes a hilarious British accent, has a winning stage presence, and knows his way around a comic moment. His "Let's Misbehave" in act two with Reno is both funny and sweet. While the show is mainly an ensemble piece, with all of the leads getting almost equal time, it is Bailes and Harris that steal the show with their perfectly delivered performances.
Director Sarah Bernstein keeps the show moving along at a fast clip, with the comedy fresh, the songs sublime, and an effective use of the large multi-generational ensemble. Dan Kurek's musical direction is great, as is his conducting of the seven-piece band, making it appear to sound much larger.
All in all, DFT has produced a solid production of this classic show. If you're looking for a humorous, joyful musical, don't miss Desert Foothill's Theater's Anything Goes.
Photo: Tiffany Bolock / Desert Foothills Theater