By Dee Jae Cox
Anything Goes is the Tony Award winning play currently in production at the Palm Canyon Theatre. With Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter, original book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, heavily revised by the team of Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and with a new book by Timothy Crouse and John Wiedman, looks almost like a movie script with all of those writer’s names attached to it. There are 4 versions of the libretto (book) for this play. Unlike film, in theater the playwright is the Supreme Being when it comes to scripts and seldom does a theatrical script have so many revisions by different writers. Anything Goes is an anomaly in that regard and not having seen the original 1934, 1962 or 1984 productions of this show, it’s impossible to say if the script benefited or lost something in the rewrites. But the one thing that has remained consistent through all of the productions of this musical, is the incredible music of Cole Porter, with such classic songs like “It’s De-lovely,” “Friendship,” “You’re the Top” and the signature song, “Anything Goes”, which are timeless gems that hold their appeal for all generations.
Anything Goes, is the story of stockbroker Billy Crocker, (performed by Robbie Wayne), who falls in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, beautifully performed by Jamie Leigh Walker, who brings exceptional talent to many of the Palm Canyon’s productions. Hope happens to be engaged to another man, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Kam Sisco). She and her fiancé are sailing off to have their wedding at sea. Billy stows away, is mistaken for Public Enemy #1 and comedy ensues.
Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, in an award inspiring performance by actress Francesca Amari, is without doubt a highlight of this production. Her gorgeous voice and a sassy personality kept the mood light and the scenes moving. Tom Warrick as Moonface Martin, (Public Enemy #13) and his girlfriend Erma (Allegra Angelo) are two show stealers. Both catching my attention and bringing a smile with their musical performances of “Be Like the Bluebird” (Martin) and “Buddie, Beware” (Erma).
Steve Fisher’s direction was certainly the result of a lot of creative work. The famous 1940’s image of the sailor kissing the woman in Time Square as he returns from war was perfectly replicated by the character Purity, (performed by one of my favorite actresses, Dani Jara.) The choreography, tap dancing and overall ensemble performances were stellar.
One of the best parts of this show was Derik Shopinski’s costumes. They were spot on and gave so much depth to each performance. I was captivated every time that Reno Sweeny entered the stage. Each dress that she wore was mesmerizing and stunning and tailored to the scene.
The thing that I enjoy most about seeing a show at the Palm Canyon Theatre is the professional presentation that they always manage to achieve. Anything Goes is not one of my favorite musicals, (I’ve never been a big fan of slapstick comedy, unless it’s Lucille Ball stomping around in a vat of grapes,) but this show gives a good romp around the stage and will no doubt inspire a smile along with a few chuckles. If you are looking for a fun night out and some good old-fashion theater, this is the show to see.
“Anything Goes”, is currently in production through February 7th, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.
For Reservations: Box Office: 760.323.5123 – www.palmcanyontheatre.org
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project and the host of the hit radio show, “California Woman 411.”