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“Anything Goes” at Hickory Ridge High School

blumey student critics
T. Ortega Gaines - ogaines@charlotteobserver.com
Grace Wallace

“Anything Goes,” Cole Porter’s classic musical about passengers on a madcap sea voyage, is just that: a classic. This time-honored musical has survived countless revivals on Broadway and local stages and has now made its way to the Hickory Ridge High School auditorium to be dressed again in 1930s nautical fashion.

“Anything Goes” has a famously complicated plot. All events take place aboard the ship, and the character’s lives become madly intertwined. As up-and-coming Wall Street broker Billy Crocker (Freddie Micheli) begins to leave the ship after dropping off his boss’ passport, he recognizes Hope Harcourt (Taylor Foley), an American debutante with whom he’s head over heels in love. Hope however, is engaged to be married to Lord Evelyn Oakley, a stuffy Englishman chosen by her imperious mother. With the help of evangelist-turned-nightclub-singer Reno Sweeney (Maya Christian), public enemy number 13 Moonface Martin (Ben Spring) and other unlikely accomplices, Billy sets off on a fast-paced, hilarious adventure to win the girl of his dreams – but not without first discovering the ups and downs of becoming an instant celebrity.

As lights came up onstage, a large set piece resembling a 1930s cruise ship established an open, bright environment. Though large, the ship was simple enough that it was not distracting or cumbersome, but instead provided multiple acting areas. Two ingenious set pieces rotated, creating different settings, including sleeping quarters and a brig. These varied acting spaces allowed for a better flow and brought about scene changes without time-consuming set changes.

Though the set supported the wild plot of the show, occasionally the actors’ diction did not. The storyline became difficult to follow at times, as characters’ lines were rushed, or the ends of jokes tapered off without a punch. That said, this did not detract from the overall plot, but only from certain scenes.

Micheli portrayed likeable Billy Crocker with ease. Though he was occasionally off key and struggled with high notes, Micheli made up for it with a gentlemanly attitude during the musical number “It’s De-lovely.” Lord Evelyn was masterfully played by Josh Waits, who understood Porter’s unique humor and whose British accent never slipped. Foley gave a lovely performance as Hope. Even through slow songs, her excellently controlled voice fit the period. At times, Foley even guided off-key cast members back on pitch.

Christian had a powerful presence that stretched into the corners of the auditorium during showy numbers such as “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel Blow.” Her steamy interactions with the not-so-steamy Evelyn were a splendid blend of awkwardness and hilarity, as both Christian and Waits handled the quick epigrams with ease.

Bonnie (Kimberly Carscadden), Moonface Martin’s lively accomplice, spoke in a thick Brooklyn accent that complemented her dry humor and was easily understood due to superb diction. In contrast to the lively leads, there were inconsistencies with the ensemble’s energy (with the exception of the spirited finale), and several unsmiling faces stood out among the ear-to-ear grins.

Though intermittently lacking in energy and motivated movement, the performance captured the tone of “Anything Goes” with actors who seemed comfortable in their roles. This rendition occasionally seemed an echo of the many performances before it but was full of style and wit that will please fans of classic Cole Porter.

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