4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Anything Goes at Moonlight Theatre

In Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, a Wall Street broker does a dumb thing — he falls in love.
In Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, a Wall Street broker does a dumb thing — he falls in love.

On my way in to the Moonlight Amphitheatre last week, I saw a reminder of what live theater is all about: pre-show excitement. Critics can overlook the obvious. For us, especially after a long summer of theater, the evening’s just another opening, another show: go with hope; wait and see. But people tailgating in the parking lot at the Moonlight, or settling into their seats or lawn chairs, were about to see a musical! Colorful costumes and lighting, splashy dance numbers, spectacle and song. Not only that, it’s Anything Goes, with some of Cole Porter’s biggest hits: “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “You’re the Top” among them.

On my way out to the parking lot, after an evening with the Master, I heard something you don’t often hear after a musical these days: practically everyone humming or singing one of the tunes — the title song most of all.

“In olden days a glimpse of stocking/ Was looked on as something shocking,/ But now, God knows,/ Anything goes.”

Or, “Good authors, too, who once knew better words/ Now only use four-letter words/ Writing prose,/ Anything goes.”

Wait. Time out. Go back and listen to the o’s in those lines. I haven’t counted them, but at least two-thirds of the words must have at least one; and Porter goes zone bonkers with “good authors, too, who once knew,” etc. — not only the o’s but his genius for syncopation.

Porter called his lyrics “brittle, bright poesy.” Often overlooked are the song and the musical’s theme: times have changed. What once shocked, like that glimpsed stocking, no longer does. Nowadays, anything goes. As proof he offers a cruise on the S.S. America, sailing from New York to England in 1934. By the time the posh ocean liner nears the white cliffs of Dover, those on top have tumbled, and those on the bottom — even Public Enemy #13 — have risen.

Billy Crocker, a “broken down [Wall Street] broker” did a dumb thing. He fell in love with Hope Harcourt. That wasn’t dumb; that was his heart making the leap of faith. But she’s a debutante, and although they shared a moment together, now she’s engaged to Evelyn Oakleigh — that’s Lord Evelyn of the stratospherically beaucoup-bucked Oakleighs.

But, come on. Anything goes, right? So Billy sneaks onboard and buys a ticket from Moonface Martin (Public Enemy #13 dressed as a priest). Billy dons various disguises and wins his Hope. So do Reno Sweeney, “New York’s most notorious evangelist” (she has lapsed), Lord Evelyn, and just about everyone else. They drop all pretensions toward social class — which the Depression caused many to do back in the States — and become equals, at least until the ship docks at Southampton.

The original book, by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, had numerous topical gags and a shipwreck. When the S.S. Morro Castle sank in September, 1934, the script needed revision, and the authors weren’t available. The text has been revised since, at least twice, maybe more. In this new version, by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, the story still ping-pongs about like a canoe in a headwind. It added two songs from Porter’s other works — “It’s De-Lovely” and “Friendship” — but could have done without stereotyping two Chinese passengers.

What this version does (and possibly director/choreographer Jon Engstrom’s involved here), whenever possible, is turn the musical into a Marx Brothers movie. Sight gags and verbal shtick — everything but Harpo’s honker — recall Duck Soup (1933), A Night at the Opera (1935), and A Day at the Races (1937), from the same era.

And the songs take it from there. For some of the biggies, Porter wrote lead-ins: yadda-yadda, yadda-yadda, then a pause, then, “I...get no kick...from champagne,” followed by a palpable gasp from the house seats, punctuated with intermittent “Ohs!” And the S.S. America sails into Porterland, a place so sacred, the faithful feel like removing their shoes.

On opening night, Tracy Lore began too tentative as Reno Sweeney and could have sung “I Get a Kick Out of You” more as a torch song. Lore grew into the role and did full, brassy justice to “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” Porter’s revivalist show-stopper (“Come on you scamps, get up you sinners!/ You’re all too full of expensive dinners”). As did an unnamed trumpet player blowing major-league licks in Kenneth Gammie’s rock-solid orchestra.

Whether dancing up a storm or singing “Easy to Love” and “All Through the Night,” multitalented Jeffrey Scott Parsons scored throughout as the indomitable Billy Crocker. As Hope, Courtney Fero sang with a bell-clear soprano, and her duet with Parsons was, well, “De-Lovely.”

In one of the show’s many flip-flops, since few celebrities came onboard, and the luxury liner advertised a ship stocked with them, gangsters fill in the gap. As Moonface Martin, veteran Barry Pearl filled in the book’s gaps with comedy. He was always funny — after a while, you could trust that he would be — and never once did he force it. Nick Tubbs’s Lord Evelyn turned about the other way: from up-market snoot to wild child. The difference was so striking, one couldn’t predict that the same actor playing Evelyn could become the dervish dancing all over the deck with “The Gypsy in Me.”

Most musical productions “coordinate” the costumes — borrow from here and there — and rent the sets. Moonlight did a scenic flip-flop. The costumes were a flashy assemblage of period styles. The sets, however, were a surprise. N. Dixon Fish, who has a long list of impressive credits, designed the Art Deco locales: a Manhattan bar (gorgeous New York skyline in the rear); and the ship, a handsome and fitting site for the intimacy, antics, and large production numbers to come.

One in particular. Ask four people about the origin of tap dancing and you’ll get at least eight answers: African-American “juba” and “ring shouts”; Irish “clog” dancing; the “soft shoe” of vaudeville (a soft shoe with hard leather soles); combinations of these and others. Ask when tap dancing became “America’s second pastime,” and the answer’s simple: the 1930s.

Moonlight concludes Act One with an amazing homage. Led by young Hannah Bagalot (who has the size, and the talent, of an Olympic gymnast), the song “Anything Goes” morphs into a full production number: 42 shoes tapping that sound in unison! Then the choreographer ups the ante by toning everything down. The orchestra quits. Bagalot comes forward and, without missing a beat, begins an “acoustic” version: just her, tapping. Others join in, then more, and then — the sheer excitement of live theater. ■

Anything Goes, music and lyrics by Cole Porter, new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman

Moonlight Amphitheatre, Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace, Vista

Directed and choreographed by Jon Engstrom, cast: Tracy Lore, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Barry Pearl, Joel W. Gossett, Courtney Fero, Dagmar Krause Fields, Nick Tubbs, Stephen Gentry, Hannah Bagalot, Ted Lieb; scenic design, N. Dixon Fish; lighting, Christina L. Munich; sound, Bryon Anderson; musical director, Justin Gray; conductor, Kenneth Gammie

Playing through September 8; Wednesday through Sunday at 8:00 p.m. 760-724-2110

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Popeyes' Lemon Grove success – and its detractors

Number one chicken sandwich snarls the streets
Next Article

San Diego website meltdown preceded by vendor spat, email shows

Exiting campaign disclosure provider threatened by City Clerk’s office
In Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, a Wall Street broker does a dumb thing — he falls in love.
In Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, a Wall Street broker does a dumb thing — he falls in love.

On my way in to the Moonlight Amphitheatre last week, I saw a reminder of what live theater is all about: pre-show excitement. Critics can overlook the obvious. For us, especially after a long summer of theater, the evening’s just another opening, another show: go with hope; wait and see. But people tailgating in the parking lot at the Moonlight, or settling into their seats or lawn chairs, were about to see a musical! Colorful costumes and lighting, splashy dance numbers, spectacle and song. Not only that, it’s Anything Goes, with some of Cole Porter’s biggest hits: “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “You’re the Top” among them.

On my way out to the parking lot, after an evening with the Master, I heard something you don’t often hear after a musical these days: practically everyone humming or singing one of the tunes — the title song most of all.

“In olden days a glimpse of stocking/ Was looked on as something shocking,/ But now, God knows,/ Anything goes.”

Or, “Good authors, too, who once knew better words/ Now only use four-letter words/ Writing prose,/ Anything goes.”

Wait. Time out. Go back and listen to the o’s in those lines. I haven’t counted them, but at least two-thirds of the words must have at least one; and Porter goes zone bonkers with “good authors, too, who once knew,” etc. — not only the o’s but his genius for syncopation.

Porter called his lyrics “brittle, bright poesy.” Often overlooked are the song and the musical’s theme: times have changed. What once shocked, like that glimpsed stocking, no longer does. Nowadays, anything goes. As proof he offers a cruise on the S.S. America, sailing from New York to England in 1934. By the time the posh ocean liner nears the white cliffs of Dover, those on top have tumbled, and those on the bottom — even Public Enemy #13 — have risen.

Billy Crocker, a “broken down [Wall Street] broker” did a dumb thing. He fell in love with Hope Harcourt. That wasn’t dumb; that was his heart making the leap of faith. But she’s a debutante, and although they shared a moment together, now she’s engaged to Evelyn Oakleigh — that’s Lord Evelyn of the stratospherically beaucoup-bucked Oakleighs.

But, come on. Anything goes, right? So Billy sneaks onboard and buys a ticket from Moonface Martin (Public Enemy #13 dressed as a priest). Billy dons various disguises and wins his Hope. So do Reno Sweeney, “New York’s most notorious evangelist” (she has lapsed), Lord Evelyn, and just about everyone else. They drop all pretensions toward social class — which the Depression caused many to do back in the States — and become equals, at least until the ship docks at Southampton.

The original book, by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, had numerous topical gags and a shipwreck. When the S.S. Morro Castle sank in September, 1934, the script needed revision, and the authors weren’t available. The text has been revised since, at least twice, maybe more. In this new version, by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, the story still ping-pongs about like a canoe in a headwind. It added two songs from Porter’s other works — “It’s De-Lovely” and “Friendship” — but could have done without stereotyping two Chinese passengers.

What this version does (and possibly director/choreographer Jon Engstrom’s involved here), whenever possible, is turn the musical into a Marx Brothers movie. Sight gags and verbal shtick — everything but Harpo’s honker — recall Duck Soup (1933), A Night at the Opera (1935), and A Day at the Races (1937), from the same era.

And the songs take it from there. For some of the biggies, Porter wrote lead-ins: yadda-yadda, yadda-yadda, then a pause, then, “I...get no kick...from champagne,” followed by a palpable gasp from the house seats, punctuated with intermittent “Ohs!” And the S.S. America sails into Porterland, a place so sacred, the faithful feel like removing their shoes.

On opening night, Tracy Lore began too tentative as Reno Sweeney and could have sung “I Get a Kick Out of You” more as a torch song. Lore grew into the role and did full, brassy justice to “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” Porter’s revivalist show-stopper (“Come on you scamps, get up you sinners!/ You’re all too full of expensive dinners”). As did an unnamed trumpet player blowing major-league licks in Kenneth Gammie’s rock-solid orchestra.

Whether dancing up a storm or singing “Easy to Love” and “All Through the Night,” multitalented Jeffrey Scott Parsons scored throughout as the indomitable Billy Crocker. As Hope, Courtney Fero sang with a bell-clear soprano, and her duet with Parsons was, well, “De-Lovely.”

In one of the show’s many flip-flops, since few celebrities came onboard, and the luxury liner advertised a ship stocked with them, gangsters fill in the gap. As Moonface Martin, veteran Barry Pearl filled in the book’s gaps with comedy. He was always funny — after a while, you could trust that he would be — and never once did he force it. Nick Tubbs’s Lord Evelyn turned about the other way: from up-market snoot to wild child. The difference was so striking, one couldn’t predict that the same actor playing Evelyn could become the dervish dancing all over the deck with “The Gypsy in Me.”

Most musical productions “coordinate” the costumes — borrow from here and there — and rent the sets. Moonlight did a scenic flip-flop. The costumes were a flashy assemblage of period styles. The sets, however, were a surprise. N. Dixon Fish, who has a long list of impressive credits, designed the Art Deco locales: a Manhattan bar (gorgeous New York skyline in the rear); and the ship, a handsome and fitting site for the intimacy, antics, and large production numbers to come.

One in particular. Ask four people about the origin of tap dancing and you’ll get at least eight answers: African-American “juba” and “ring shouts”; Irish “clog” dancing; the “soft shoe” of vaudeville (a soft shoe with hard leather soles); combinations of these and others. Ask when tap dancing became “America’s second pastime,” and the answer’s simple: the 1930s.

Moonlight concludes Act One with an amazing homage. Led by young Hannah Bagalot (who has the size, and the talent, of an Olympic gymnast), the song “Anything Goes” morphs into a full production number: 42 shoes tapping that sound in unison! Then the choreographer ups the ante by toning everything down. The orchestra quits. Bagalot comes forward and, without missing a beat, begins an “acoustic” version: just her, tapping. Others join in, then more, and then — the sheer excitement of live theater. ■

Anything Goes, music and lyrics by Cole Porter, new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman

Moonlight Amphitheatre, Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace, Vista

Directed and choreographed by Jon Engstrom, cast: Tracy Lore, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Barry Pearl, Joel W. Gossett, Courtney Fero, Dagmar Krause Fields, Nick Tubbs, Stephen Gentry, Hannah Bagalot, Ted Lieb; scenic design, N. Dixon Fish; lighting, Christina L. Munich; sound, Bryon Anderson; musical director, Justin Gray; conductor, Kenneth Gammie

Playing through September 8; Wednesday through Sunday at 8:00 p.m. 760-724-2110

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Save Alonzo Culver’s Queen Anne Victorian mansion in Carlsbad

Built in 1888 “with the charm of a more genteel era.”
Next Article

Wagyu Shawarma Grill takes trend to Rancho San Diego

New fast casual Middle Eastern counter touts its prized beef
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Art Reviews — W.S. Di Piero's eye on exhibits Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Best Buys — San Diego shopping Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits City Lights — News and politics Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Famous Former Neighbors — Next-door celebs Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Here's the Deal — Chad Deal's watering holes Just Announced — The scoop on shows Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Of Note — Concert picks Out & About — What's Happening Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Pour Over — Grab a cup Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Sports — Athletics without gush Street Style — San Diego streets have style Suit Up — Fashion tips for dudes Theater Reviews — Local productions Theater antireviews — Narrow your search Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Waterfront — All things ocean Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close