Review – “Anything Goes” at Town Hall Arts Center

On December 5th, 2014 I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for a show at the local theatre here in Littleton, CO.  Here’s my review.

FAIR WARNING.  MILD SPOILERS ALERT!

First off let’s get this out of the way.  Theatre is Theatre.  Whether it’s on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Independent or the small local stage – it’s still that thing we’ve been doing for thousands of years in order to entertain those that need a laugh, to challenge an audience,  or to leave the crowds challenged with a big ugly question.  It’s gone through reformation, regeneration and renaissance but it is still a thing of beauty in whatever sized form it is viewed.

And so when we talk about Town Hall Arts Center, I want to grab you by the lapels and pull you in close.  I want to meet you eye to eye.  And I want to ask you what shows you’ve seen here…and if you haven’t – what in the blue blazes of Dionysus are you waiting for?  Because here’s the important thing – theatre is a living breathing creature.   And we need to keep it alive.

“Anything Goes” isn’t going to push your intellectual buttons but it’ll give you a rousing roundhouse kick to the funny bone – which is exactly what I needed on a Friday night.  A long day at work was behind me and college finals were staring me from next week.  Full disclosure – I needed a show to complete a critique and had run out of options.  In a serendipitous coincidence, my Friday night was open.

The show is perfectly cast.  The leading lady is one Norrell Moore who is full of sass and class as she dances and gallops across the stage as “Reno Sweeney”.  She does a bang up job of giving you every reason to love Reno because she exudes the character in attitude and poise – and you just love watching her sing and stomp through the scenes.  I left the show realizing her performance had left a mark on me through the show.  That’s the measure of an actress.  Which leads me to our leading man Zach Stailey in the role of “Billy Crocker”.  It takes a few scenes to warm up to the character but once things pick up speed – I found the moment for me was in “You’re the Top” – Stailey is as brilliant as you expect and even more.  The chemistry between him and Moore was fantastic.  I felt as if they were genuinely having so much fun on stage and it helped draw me in further.

We now come to Billy’s true love, “Hope Harcourt” and Alison Mueller’s performance.  While Moore’s “Reno” plays anything but innocent it is Mueller’s skillful carrying of Harcourt’s genuine goodness that is something to behold.  During moments when the whole cast was involved in a song or dance I found myself drifting over to watch her.  Her slow and gradual shift away from her groom to be “Lord Evekyn Oakleigh” played by Rob Janzen is fun to watch because you believe she’s fighting it but absolutely is in love with Billy.  And I’ve mentioned Janzen so I need to talk about him.

I wish the audience I was with had been more of a laughing group because the song and dance number in the second act featuring him and Reno entitled, “The Gypsy in Me” is worth the price of admission alone.  We spend an entire act and a half watching a stodgy Brit who keeps a notebook of American sayings he hears.  And in one number “Lord Oakleigh” goes nearly full tilt “Lord of the Dance”.  Not nearly.  He burns that stage to the ground as he prances, dances and trances.  Seriously.  I had to cover my laughter.

Speaking of laughter – my goodness.  Playing the character of “Moonface Martin” we have Mark Shonsey and if there was an award for the guy who stole the show for me – it’s this guy.  Reading his bio helps me understand the why.  Shonsey is active in standup and improv comedy locally. It is very apparent he knows how to take a role and make it bigger than life.  Shonsey succeeds.  If you’re reading this Mark – you had me smiling like a goofy little kid each scene.  Bravo.  And you can’t talk about “Moonface” without his partner, “Erma” (played by Ellen Kaye).  She’s a corrupt step down of “Reno” and it’s genuinely funny to watch her cavort about causing the Sailors (kudos to these guys by the way – each a character in his own) all kinds of heartache and heartbreak.  She reaches metaphorical and literal heights with her scenes.

Which leaves us with two more characters to really talk about – and they’re my favorites not because of the scenes they play within but because even as small as they are part wise the two actors (Judith Wyatt and Ed Hickok respectively) still manage to carry solid enough weight with big enough acting chops.  In the program Ed’s history with Town Hall had me chuckling before the curtain even went up and I found myself impressed as he breathed life into the character.

Yes.  There are characters known as Angels.  And yes, they are all beautiful.   And no – I’m not giving away the fun these girls get to have as they serve a unique and helpful role within the show.  You need to see it for yourself.  All I’ll say is they can dance like masters.  Props to you, ladies.  Rounding it out is the captain and a mixed ensemble who play the limited roles well.  Keep an eye on them as the big stuff is happening on stage. They don’t disappoint.

Here’s where we get to the so called weak areas but I don’t want these things to scare you away or prevent you from seeing the show because the things I’ve got to put here are logistical and limited by space.  Given the small stage, backstage and limited area for a orchestra it’s not a bad show.  Would I love to see this crew bring this show to the DCPA?  Absafreakinlutely.  But we’re not there.  We’re on the streets of Downtown Littleton with a compact space.

What this cast and crew does with the space in Town Hall Arts Center isn’t going to blow your mind – but it will create a fun story which will have you laughing, smiling and forgetting about the grande ol’ DCPA as the talented cast and crew create suspension of disbelief through the old fashioned tricks of theater.

Should you see this show?  Yes.  Tickets are reasonable (I’m a poor college student and managed to swing the money).

It runs through December 28th and you can find tickets at the Town Hall Arts Center website or by calling (303) 794-2787.

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