published Friday, July 20th, 2012

'Anything Goes' is a song and dance delight

Delbert W. Hale/Correspondent

Chattanooga Theatre Centre MainStage is closing its season with Tony Award winner Cole Porter's lively musical masterpiece from 1934, "Anything Goes."

Director George Quick stages the 1987 Broadway revival version with a cast of 24 "passengers" capable of captivating the audience. Set aboard the ocean liner S.S. American, bound from New York to London, the romantic comedy comes alive with Quick's direction and scenic design and Scott Dunlap's costume design.

Choreographer Lindsay Fussell does a brilliant job leading this cast in impressive dance scenes with the incorporation of some great tap numbers.

The large musical fills the stage with several cast members deserving special notice.

Bobby Burkich makes his MainStage debut as stowaway Billy Crocker. Burkich is the perfect leading man with his suave good looks and his commanding versatility.

Leading lady Shanelle Newton is the sexy nightclub singer Reno Sweeney. Newton is the complete package. She shows off her incredible dance talent in this high-energy role.

Justin Bridges' portrayal of Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, a collector and mangler of American sayings, seizes the essence of this character, with true English style. Heiress Hope Hancourt, engaged to Oakleigh, is played by Laura Johnson. Johnson's vocals are very nicely done as her beautiful voice is showcased.

Stefanie Oppenheimer is elegant as the sophisticated Evangeline Harcourt, and Rodney Strong is perfect in the role of the drunken "Yalie," Elisha Whitney.

Strong is a natural. Jeff Hill is commanding as the ship's Captain and Emma Louis Wiseman's Erma is a show-stealer. Rodney Van Valkenburg is an audience favorite as low-grade criminal, Moonface Martin.

Van Valkenburg's performance is strong, funny and pure talent. Other members of the impressive cast include Thomas White and Tarik Issa as Luke and John; David Couter as ship's purser; Karley Moon as Purity; Eva Noelle Hildebrandt as Chastity; Fiona Battersby as Charity; Mariah Rinkel as Virtue; Justice Bradley Payne, Terrance Wright, Nick Cook and Matthew Johnson as sailors; Laura Childers, Laura Holland and Ashlin Neal as passengers; T. Craig McNamara as Henry T. Dobson.

The S.S. American Band features Marcia Smith on piano, Bob Stagner on percussion, John Rose on trombone, Dan Hauson on trumpet, Kenny Palmer on bass and Ivan Lee on clarinet.

The Chattanooga Theatre Centre's "Anything Goes" has everything an exceptional production must have. With an evening of comedic antics, spirited dancing performed by outstanding dancers, catchy songs by talented vocalists, a live six-piece band, romantic twists and frivolous banter, one cannot find a more fun-filled way to experience musical theater at its finest. This is hand-clapping, toe-tapping fun for the entire family.

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