THEATER REVIEW: “Cole Porter’s Anything Goes” at the Welk

Fake clergy, gangsters on the lam and a nouveau pauvre society dame who wants to marry off her daughter to a rich but stodgy Englishman rub elbows and dance up a storm on the S.S. American in “Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.”

Ray Limon directs and choreographs this beloved show, which runs through March 23 at Welk Resort Theatre. The show’s plot is up there among the silliest ever, but never mind that: It’s Porter’s incomparable songs – toe-tapping and witty – that have brought audiences back to this show since its original 1934 opening.

Consider a short list of hits: “You’re The Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Friendship” and of course the title tune. Classics all, and that’s just the first act.

Joshua Carr produced and stars as Billy Crocker, a stockbroker as determined to prevent the marriage of former girlfriend Hope Harcourt (Rachel Davis) to British Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (RC Sands) as her mother (Robin La Valley) is to ensure that she does say that “I do” (they are slated for a shipboard ceremony).

Along to provide sparks and smooth sounds are redheaded siren and nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Natalie Nucci) and her four “angels” Virtue (“the easy kind”), played by Allyson Spiegelman ; Charity (Jeni Baker); Purity (Lindsay Kristine Anderson) and Chastity (Tara Shoemaker).

In between, there are mistaken identities, chases around the ship for those gangsters – Moonface Martin (masterfully played for huge laughs by Shaun Leslie Thomas) and his sidekick Bonnie (April Henry).

Though the Sunday matinee took a while to get up to speed – and I began to wonder when the cast would start having fun – once they settled in, they delivered the goods in fine and tuneful style.

Carr makes a fine impression as Billy in his first return to the stage in 15-plus years. He is nicely matched by the sweet-voiced Davis as Hope, who almost gets railroaded into that marriage.

Nucci’s Reno is brassy and charming as they come, and she can belt out a tune like “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” or tone it down for a bluesy rendition of “I Get A Kick Out Of You” with equal aplomb. And the lady can dance.

Sands (a kick as Mary Sunshine in last season’s “Chicago”) shows great facility with Evelyn’s stuffy British accent and demeanor, also amusing greatly with his tendency to mangle American idioms.

Musical director Justin Gray’s small but mighty combo of five keeps the beat going for the fine dancing cast (well costumed by Janet Pitcher) that shows special aptitude in the snappy tap dance numbers.

The set (by Martin Willis Raymondo), lighting by Jennifer Edwards-Northover and sound design by Patrick Hoyny add to the atmosphere.

“Anything Goes” has had some doctoring over the years: two books and many changes in plot (a shipwreck plotline was ditched after a fatal cruise ship accident). Songs have been added and deleted.

But the S.S. American and its passengers will likely continue to amuse audiences far into the future because the music’s great and the show is just fun to watch.

The details

“Cole Porter’s Anything Goes” runs through March 23 at Welk Resorts Theatre San Diego, 8860 Lawrence Welk Drive, Escondido.

Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 1 pm; Thursday and Saturday at 8 pm.

Tickets: (888) 802-7469 or click HERE.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.