COLE PORTER’S “ANYTHING GOES” SAILS INTO THE SUTTER STREET THEATRE
Review by Gerry Camp
It could only happen at Sutter Street Theatre. A huge musical with a cast of 24, choreography with the style and energy worthy of touring professionals, and of course the best songs in the American musical theatre songbook: Cole Porter’s “You’re the Top,” “It’s Delovely,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” and of course the title song “Anything Goes”—all presented on a stage that looks like it might be slightly larger than your dining room. No other community theatre company within fifty miles tackles, year after year, the great classic musicals. That’s why I believe Sutter Street Theatre year after year is named the number one theatre group in the area.
But Sutter Street is able to pull these miracles off annually because they have four secret resources no other group can match. The first is the management team of Mike Jimena and Connie Mockenhaupt. Mike directed this show, moving his excellent cast smoothly through a production that never slows. He also designed the perfect set and the effective lighting. Connie is not just a manager; she’s a star performer as she shows here in the lead as the evangelist become singer Reno Sweeney,who not only can belt out Porter’s hits but also reveals a delightful and occasionally shocking naughty streak.
The second asset on view here is the choreography of Dian Hoel, whose talent turns the whole cast, including some quite young dancers, into skilled hoofers who perform knockout production numbers you almost can’t believe. Behind these numbers, and behind the love duets and solos, is the fantastic accompanist John Wilder, who makes his keyboard sound like a full orchestra. The fourth magician is costume designer Eileen Beaver, who makes everyone look perfect, most with several changes. (And she’s an Elly nominated performer who is on stage in this show as well as behind the scenes!)
But none of this would add up if Sutter Street was unable to attract true star performers to inhabit their classy productions. My three favorites, in addition to Mockenhaupt, are three returning featured players. Michael Sicilia, last year’s Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls,” here is hilarious as Lord Evelyn, so eager to learn American idioms he keeps a notebook handy to jot down any he hears (and then misuses them delightfully.) Alison Gilbreath takes over the stage whenever she appears. Her “Let’s Step Out” brings down the house. And Rick Kleber, unforgettable in “Guys and Dolls” and “Spamalot,” is a total hoot as Moonface Martin, public enemy #13 masquerading as a priest. His big solo, “Be Like the Bluebird,” was for me the musical highlight of the evening.
You may have noticed that I’ve said nothing about the plot of this show. In fact, there are seemingly dozens of plots. But I don’t think you come to a Cole Porter show to get wrapped up in story. You come for the great songs, the fantastic singing, the amazing dancing. And “Anything Goes,” playing weekends through October 2, is another wonderful night of musical theatre you won’t see anywhere else.