By: Marta Ugwu
The Livingston Theatre Company kicked off its 2015-2016 season with its dazzling production of Anything Goes, the critically acclaimed 1930’s musical with music and lyrics by American composer Cole Porter. The play’s original book was written by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, with help from Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The Broadway play debuted on in 1934 at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre). Since then, the play has seen multiple revivals in both the U.S. and Britain. Anything Goes has also been awarded numerous Tony Award and Drama Desk Award nominations, including Best Revival, Best Choreography, and Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Most recently, the 2011 Broadway revival won the Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards for Best Revival, Best Choreography, and one of the stars, Sutton Foster, won both awards for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.
This production, based on the new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, was directed by Alex Albanese, a junior studying Theater and Communications with a minor in Music here at Rutgers University. I attended the 8:00 p.m show on November 14, 2015, one of the five shows during the production’s four day run from November 12th through November 15th. That night, the Livingston Student Center was a full house as the actors of the LTC lit up the stage with their lively performance of this popular piece of classical musical theatre.
Anything Goes takes place aboard the S.S. American, an ocean liner headed for England, where Wall Street stock broker Billy Crocker (Jonathan Dawson) is stowed away in the hopes of winning the heart of the woman he loves, heiress Hope Harcourt (Brittany DiNardo). She is travelling with her mother, Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt (Loretta Adams), and her fiance, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Benji Sills), a wealthy Englishman. Billy’s friend, evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Stephanie Turci), also happens to be on board the ship along with Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin (Tyler Conroy) and his girlfriend, Erma (Alexandria Ambriano). With the use of elaborate schemes, ridiculous disguises, and unexpected surprises, the both of them help Billy in his quest to be with his one true love, while also avoiding being seen by his boss, Elijah Whitney (Andy Martinez).
Throughout the show, there were many eye-catching dance numbers, especially the ones performed by Reno’s Angels (Daniela Stefanelli, Krystina Matos, Mary Berko, and Olivia Accardo), which were wildly infectious and a true testament to the dance styles of the 1930s. The rest of cast were spectacular, each giving an honest performance that the audience connected with and thoroughly enjoyed. Two performances that particularly stood out were Stephanie Turci’s Reno Sweeney and Tyler Conroy’s Moonface Martin, who in my opinion were able to garner the biggest reaction from the audience.
Overall, the show went on without a hitch, there were no signs of any noticeable bumps and the show proceeded almost flawlessly. The orchestra, the sound effects, and the characters created a nostalgic atmosphere, making sure to bring the audience on-board the S.S. American with them. I really have to commend the stage crew for being able to change the stage setup in a timely fashion without a single slip-up and the set designers who created the props and backdrops that beautifully added to the aesthetic of the show. I think the Livingston Theatre Company put on a wonderful show that night and I left feeling like I had just witnessed a truly magical piece of musical theatre. I could tell that the whole cast and crew out a lot of time and energy into this production and that clearly came across to the audience by the high caliber of performance they displayed on the stage. I would absolutely recommend anyone who is looking a fun night out to attend one of the LTC’s upcoming shows, Spring Awakening and Urinetown, two shows that I believe will be outstanding based on the exceptional quality of the first show of the year, Anything Goes.