In a time of financial insecurity and with a critical election ahead, a general malaise has swept over the country. The best remedy for these hard times is to live lightheartedly and say, “anything goes.”
Tomorrow, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.
Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre
The Ann Arbor Civic Theatre is presenting “Anything Goes,” a goofy story of the complications of love combined with deceptive identities, bawdiness and an iconic score of Cole Porter’s legendary music — which features noteworthy songs “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”
The play begins with Billy Crocker falling madly in love with the beautiful Hope Harcourt who, unfortunately, is engaged to Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. Crocker decides to follow her aboard a steamboat sailing from New York to London. With the help of “Moonface” Martin, also known as “Public Enemy 13,” and the brass, bold nightclub singer Reno Sweeney, Crocker goes on his pursuit of love.
Andy Ballnik, the director of this production, explained his view of the show. The dialogue is dated and the plot is silly, but the “timeless” music remains a solid base for the entire musical.
Ballnik also made clear that over the years, different productions have mixed and matched songs from Porter’s repertoire, so each version has a distinct selection. The version he is employing is the 1987 Beaumont version performed by Patty Lupone. This adaptation has modern dialogue with more timely jokes and also emphasizes the sexual undertones of Cole Porter’s music.
The show is widely known for its vigorous dance numbers scattered throughout the performance. All the dancers went through an intense tap boot camp over the summer, where grueling rehearsals improved their technique. Even though not every performer is well-versed in tap, the choreographer makes sure each dancer grasps each step, creating clear, crisp sounds ranging from simple flaps to more rigorous pull backs. And though many believe that “Anything Goes” is simply a tap production, the title number is the only major tap number. The other dance routines are mostly musical theater movement, a combination of jazz and ballet styles.
Ballnik highlighted how even though “Anything Goes” is known for its noteworthy dance routines, he wanted to illustrate how there is so much more to the dances than the rigorous movements performed.
“I was very adamant about having the dance tell a story or display something about the character,” he said. “I think that’s what a lot of people fall through with, they just put dance on stage for dance’s sake.”
Ballnik emphasizes that, even more than the plot, it’s Cole Porter’s songs that showcase the intricacies of each character and demonstrate the inner struggles they are experiencing. For instance, “I Get A Kick Out Of You” is the first musical number that introduces Reno Sweeney. The song shows her not only as an audacious figure who dominates the crowd, but details her vulnerabilities, suggesting that she is also in love with a man she cannot have.
Much as the title of the show suggests, Ballnik made clear that life should be enjoyed and not taken too seriously.
“I want them humming the tunes when they leave,” Ballnik said. “This isn’t Stephen Sondheim, and it isn’t Shakespeare, this is ‘Anything Goes.’ ”