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Going, Going, Gone

[whitespace] Kim Chambers, Paulino Duran, and Claire Victor
Song and Dance: Kim Chambers, Paulino Duran, and Claire Victor tango their way across the sinking set of 'Anything Goes.'

SR Players deliver off-key 'Anything Goes'

By Daedelus Howell

SOMETIMES a work of theater is such a formidable artistic challenge that it must be evaluated in a manner consistent with its own aesthetic criteria. Unfortunately, in this case, crayons and macaroni do not reproduce well in newsprint. The Santa Rosa Players' production of musical-mastermind Cole Porter's Anything Goes (directed by Peyton and Michael Maloney) is two and a half hours of idiocy posing as musical comedy.

With music and lyrics by the venerable Porter and book by Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse, and whoever else was in the room at the time, Anything Goes is a madcap, screwball excuse for a soundtrack. The book is a terribly untidy amalgamation of half-thought plots, shtick, and sketches that invariably dead-end in one of Porter's hallmark song and dance numbers.

The play is ostensibly the story of go-getter Billy Crocker (a mugging Paulino Duran) wooing betrothed Hope Harcourt (a characteristically demure Kym Chambers) away from effete Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (in a redeeming performance by Mark Smith) during a transatlantic cruise to England. In the midst of his fervid romancing, dancing, and crooning, Billy teams up with wannabe mobster Moonface Martin (Vance Smallwood), with whom he devises myriad disguises and distractions to evade his boss, ship authorities, and other painfully injected complications. In short, he acts like a schmuck, gets in over his head, gets out, and gets hitched.

Directors Peyton and Michael Maloney stumble again and again in their calamitous madhouse of entrances and exits, replete with rueful stabs at sentiment and unnervingly humorless pleas for laughs. The play's few hopes of salvation--the glistening performance of Jennifer Albin (as cabaret satin-doll Reno Sweeny) and Smith and Smallwood's deft caricatures--are crushed by the accumulated gravity of the Maloneys' poor dramatic choices.

If the directors had narrowed the scope of their production (40-plus players swarm the stage) and concentrated on the sinews of sight gags and one-liners, the show might have stood a chance. With Anything Goes, the name of the game is farce--light, snappy, frivolous farce. But the Players seem too concerned with infusing their interpretation with actorly emotion (as between the lovers Billy and Hope), and this stymies the levity necessary for the material to work. The play drags, and miserably so.

Narrowly escaping the spray of artistic misguidance that riddles this show is Laurie Glodowski's choreography. Her work is a bright spot--though perhaps a tad glaring--that maximizes the cast's serviceable dancing abilities (the tap sequences are particularly entertaining) as the performers cascade across set designer Joshua Reid's quaint frontal view of a luxury liner's deck, smokestacks, and portals.

Likewise, musical director Janis Wilson guides a competent ensemble through Porter's effervescent score. But, unfortunately, she is undermined by the occasional clotted-cream timbre of a performer's singing and by the theater's sound system, which converts the bassy arrangement into a blend of champagne and mud.

Surely most people coming to a slapstick musical like this are out looking for escapist entertainment. Unfortunately, Anything Goes is anything but.


Santa Rosa Players's production of Anything Goes plays through June 21 at the Lincoln Arts Center, 709 Davis, Santa Rosa. Tickets are $10-$12. 544-7827.

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From the June 4-10, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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