Wednesday, January 23, 2013

THEATER REVIEW: Manatee Players’ ‘Anything Goes’ is ‘easy to love’ in Bradenton

Omar Montes as Billy Crocker and Andrea Wright as Reno Sweeney in the Manatee Players production of "Anything Goes."

Talk about nice timing.

When the Manatee Players announced its current season last January, the critically acclaimed revival of Cole Porter's madcap classic "Anything Goes" was on Broadway, where it won a slew of trophies including the Best Revival of a Musical Tony Award.
Six months after the show closed, it’s the second to last production that the Manatee Players are to be staging at the Riverfront Theatre.

In March, the Bradenton community theater troupe plans to move to the new Manatee Performing Arts Center. The “Anything Goes” engagement that runs through Feb. 3, sold out before it opened Jan. 17. Those fortunate enough to have tickets, will find that the Manatee Players production of the musical that premiered on Broadway in 1934 still has plenty of kick, providing ample laughs of the screwball variety.

The show overflows with great tunes including the iconic "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top" and "De-Lovely," as well as lesser famous gems like the romantic “Easy to Love” and the funny “Friendship.”  

Andrea Wright as Reno Sweeney
A love boat journey from New York to England, "Anything Goes" finds Andrea Wright offering a sizzling performance as evangelist/nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. She has the hots for stowaway Billy Crocker (Omar Montes), even though he wants to hook up with Hope Harcourt (Melanie Bierweiler) on the eve of her wedding to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Brian Chunn ).

Michael DeMocko plays Moonface Martin, a gangster on the run and Brittney Klepper plays Erma, his sailor-crazy sidekick. Dan Coppinger plays perpetually-drunk rich man Elisha Whitney, who’s pursuing Caroline Cox’s character, Mrs. Harcourt. Society types hungry to hang with celebrities also populate the S.S. American. 

Yep, in many ways, it’s a timeless show. But it’s also probably a bit too silly for certain contemporary audience members. There’s a ridiculous manhunt, a stuffed pooch and goofball disguises. offensive racial stereotypes are also played for laughs.

Rick Kerby, The Manatee Players' producing artistic director, directs and choreographs. He does a commendable job throughout with his greatest accomplishment coming at the end of Act 1, when Wright and the ensemble sing and tap dance their way wonderfully through the title tune. But it would have been nice if some of the acting performances I watched Tuesday had been more nuanced. At times, the jokes were over-sold, as if the characters knew they were supposed to be harebrained, resulting in a diminished comedic return.

Aaron Cassette, the musical director and keyboardist, keeps the Porter classics peppy and fresh with trumpeter Victor Mongillo popping out of the pit to deliver a boisterous solo during “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”

Details: "Anything Goes" runs through Feb. 3; 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Manatee Players Riverfront Theatre, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton. Tickets: $26 (adults), $15 (teachers) and $13 (students). Information: 941-748-5875 or

—Photos by TIFFANY TOMPKINS-CONDIE/Bradenton Herald

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