Competent Acting Overshadows Poor Production
Presented by MIT Musical Theatre Guild
Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter.
Directed by Kristin Hughes.
Produced by Jen Berk ’01.
Music Directed by Stephen Marc Beaudoin.
Starring Rogue Shindler, Todd Radford G, Tanis O’Connor ’02, Jamez Kirtley ’94, and Kat Allen ’03.
A number of factors make the Musical Theatre Guild’s production of Anything Goes fun and amusing: confident and able lead actors, a great score, and an engaging plot. Unfortunately, for all of its compelling aspects, the production also had a number of flaws. While watching Anything Goes, I could only think that the play could have been in a whole different league with only more careful attention to detail.
Seconds before stepping off a boat set for England with his boss on board, Billy (Rogue Shindler) sees a woman who he immediately falls in love with, Hope (Kat Allen ’03), only to learn that she is to be married once the boat reaches England. He decides to abandon his work and follow his heart on board the cruise ship. Thus, the action is set in motion; throw in some gangsters, an overbearing mother, and a few nightclub singers, and you have got Anything Goes.
Rogue Shindler showed an enormous versatility in his performance of Billy, the stock trader who keeps finding himself in trouble on the ship. From endearing con man to love-struck hero, Shindler expressed a number of different personalities but remained the glue that held the disparate elements of the plot together. Kat Allen ’03 played Billy’s romantic interest, and although Hope was fickle and unpredictable, she remained, largely, a one-dimensional character.
Jamez Kirtley ’94 played an excellent Moonface Martin, public enemy number 13. Although Kirtley had only a supporting role, he was as important to the play as any one of the lead actors. Easily the actor with the best comic timing and instinct, Kirtley made the play more enjoyable than it would have otherwise been. Caitlin Marlow ’03 took the role of Bonnie, Moonface’s partner-in-crime. Marlow exuded confidence and poise and made the most of a small role.
Also radiating confidence onstage, Tanis O’Connor’s nightclub singer Reno seemed to be at first a mere plot device, but later blossomed into an essential piece of the puzzle of relationships. As a nightclub singer, Reno is solely responsible for many of the musical numbers in Anything Goes (“Take Me Back to Manhattan,” “Anything Goes,” etc.) because they would make little sense without her to provide some context. O’Connor was in her element during the first act before she sheds her famous singer persona for the romantic interest of Sir Evelyn (Todd Radford G).
Members of the ensemble, however, did not exude the same confidence as the main characters. They seemed both uncomfortable with their lines and uncomfortable on the stage. For instance, Reno’s “Angels,” her backup singers, could barely be heard over the orchestra, even when they were accompanied by Marlow. This was also exemplified in many of the dance numbers with the whole chorus. In turn, I felt uncomfortable just watching them dance. Surely, either more practice or different versions of the dances for different cast members could have alleviated this problem, as more training in projection could have alleviated the first.
Many of the details of the production were either not sufficiently addressed or neglected altogether. While the set was cleverly designed to function as main lounge, deck, and cabin, it was stark. Mainly painted in white, gray, and black, it compared terribly with the lively, colorful play. The lighting also rarely deviated from a scheme of floodlights and spotlights; there were no colors or interesting variations that could have helped alleviate the barrenness of the set.
In this light, the main characters far and away stole the show. Unfortunately, the production had many glaring holes that needed to have been patched long before it was shown publicly; the most frustrating part was that many such flaws easily could have been remedied with only a little more effort.