By Jordan Wright (Photo/Keith Waters)
Director Stefan Sittig is no stranger to big song-and-dance productions, and awards committees are no strangers to his consider- able talent. He’s directed or choreographed all the major blockbusters, from “Chicago” to “Evita,” “Showboat” to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “A Chorus Line” to “West Side Story,” and many more.
But a show is only as good as its performers, and thankfully The Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production of “Anything Goes” has got a super cast of singers and hoofers — the most indelible being Mara Stewart as Reno Sweeney.
The young Stewart, a recent arrival to our area from the Chicago drama scene, is a spectacular singer — think Liza Minelli, Ethel Merman and Barbra Streisand rolled into one — and comedian — conjure up Lucille Ball’s antics while delving into the archives of vaudeville. She is utterly captivating and surely destined for a stellar career. Catch her here and you can say, “I knew her when…”
Set in 1934, a disparate bunch of passengers and gangsters sail aboard a luxury liner to England. Wall Street nabob Elisha J. Whitney (Dick Reed) is just one of the dupes being conned by Moonface Martin (Ken Kemp, a wickedly funny scene stealer) and his cohort, Bonnie (Jaqueline Salvador).
Billy Crocker (Marshall Cesena) is Whitney’s assistant, a starry-eyed boy wonder hopelessly in love with Hope Harcourt (the beauti- fully voiced Tori Garcia), who is about to give her hand in marriage to the witless British lord Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (James Maxted).
If that doesn’t keep it lively enough, there’s the splashy celebrity diva and former evangelist Reno Sweeney (Stewart) and her four “Angels” — Chastity (Ashley Kaplan), Purity (Katie Mallory), Virtue (Elizabeth Spilsbury) and Charity (Caitlyn Goerner) — her backup chorines.
Cole Porter drew inspiration from the rarefied circles he traveled in, peppering his tales with the gangsters and crooks who plied their cons on the fringes of high society. With his incomparable talent for witty repartee, “Anything Goes” is filled with bon mots and zingers on the SS American, where crooks are hapless and gold diggers are adorable.
In typical Porter fashion, there’s mistaken identity and hilarious disguises, especially when Billy, in hot pursuit of Hope and against her mother’s wishes, becomes a chef, then a sailor and ultimately a nobleman.
“Are you French or Spanish?” Hope’s mother (Allie Cesena) wonders after he changes into a count with a phony beard cut from a swatch of her fur jacket. “Neither,” he quips. “I’m Chinchillian!.”
The best of British humorists, P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, wrote the book and it’s popping with wit. Kit Sibley and Jean Schlichting bring massive glamour to the costumes — from spangles, sequins and feather boas to sassy chorus girl sailor suits and beautiful gowns. Sibley also does double duty on the terrific period hair and wigs.
Conductor and keyboardist Francine Krasowska leads a nine-piece onstage orchestra that play a total of fourteen instruments in a glorious bonanza of 17 of Porter’s greatest hits. Among them are some of his most memorable – “You’re the Top,” “Let’s Mis- behave,” “It’s De-Lovely” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”