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    Stage review

    A shipshape ‘Anything Goes’ at North Shore

    The performers display joyful precision throughout Cole Porter’s comic caper.
    Paul Lyden
    The performers display joyful precision throughout Cole Porter’s comic caper.

    The North Shore Music Theatre’s frothy “Anything Goes” opens with a recording of Cole Porter singing the title number. It’s a lovely nod to the show’s composer and a reminder that no matter how sublimely silly the plot gets, Porter’s music is the top.

    Director Charles Repole has the added advantage of an ensemble that delivers every moment of this comic caper with joyful precision, from a transitional scene in which sailors dance with mops to production numbers that feature the entire company singing and dancing up a storm. At the head of this ensemble is Danette Holden, who plays Reno Sweeney, the evangelist-turned-nightclub singer. Holden not only tears down the walls with her vocal power on “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” but also displays an easy chemistry with all of her costars, whether it’s an English lord or Public Enemy #13.

    The action takes place on an ocean liner bound for England in the 1930s. Billy Crocker (Eric Ulloa), a young stockbroker, escorts his randy old boss Elisha Whitney (Tom Gleadow) onto the ship only to discover that the girl of his dreams, Hope Harcourt (Alessa Neeck), is also on board with her mother and her fiancé, the wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Michael Mastro). Determined to win her love, he stows away, finding himself teaming up with Moonface Martin (previously announced 1970s TV star Eddie Mekka has been replaced by understudy David Scott Purdy), a gangster who has snuck on board disguised as a minister. The nearly nonsensical plot is stitched together with goofy one-liners, but it’s all just an excuse to get back to Porter’s immortal tunes.


    Although Reno Sweeney has declared her love for Billy in the show’s opening number, “You’re the Top,” both she and Moonface agree to help Billy win Hope. Purdy and Holden display some wonderful comic timing, and Holden especially offers some hilarious facial expressions that communicate all of the comedy in the scene. She also manages a terrific tap routine and then breaks into song without missing a beat.

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    As Billy Crocker, Ulloa has a stunning voice and balances some smart comic moments with romantic ballads, including “Easy to Love” and “All Through the Night.” He and Neeck add some lovely romance to their duet, “It’s De-Lovely.”

    Mastro makes his American slang-loving lord a hoot, and nearly steals the show with “The Gypsy in Me” while Alaina Mills, as the gangster moll Emma, teases the sailors with a saucy “Buddie, Beware.”

    Choreographer Michael Lichtefeld moves his singer/dancers around every inch of the stage, with ensemble members creating a wonderful sense of easy flow or growing chaos depending on the needs of the scene.

    The nine-piece orchestra, led by Milton Granger and featuring trumpeter Jay Daly’s solo on “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” performs the Cole Porter compositions with a crisp and effervescent feel, making this production of “Anything Goes” an absolute delight.

    Terry Byrne can be reached at