"ANYTHING GOES," through Nov. 17, Hale Centre Theatre Orem, 225 W. 400 North, Orem (801-226-8600 or haletheater.org); running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes (one intermission)
OREM — There’s no shortage of reasons to hop aboard Hale Center Theater Orem’s “Anything Goes,” which runs through Nov. 17. The 1934 production is brimming with laughs from beginning to end, loaded with a hodgepodge of larger-than-life characters as well as a slew of legendary Broadway composer Cole Porter’s upbeat show tunes.
When Wall Street big shot Billy Crocker learns that the girl he loves — debutante Hope Harcourt — is set to voyage across the Atlantic on the SS American with her wealthy fiancée, he makes a daring last-second decision to sneak aboard the ship and try to snag her away before she’s gone forever.
He enlists the help of his old friend, the sly and glamorous Reno Sweeney, an evangelical nightclub singer, as well as a criminal on the run, the infamous Moonface Martin, a loveable gangster who thinks he’s a bigger hotshot than he really is (he’s only “Public Enemy Number 13”). A back and forth of romantic antics follow as Billy attempts to swoon Hope into his arms, and it’s anchors away from there.
While the show focuses on Billy’s story more than anyone else’s, there’s no doubt Reno Sweeney is the true star on board the SS American. Ashley Gardner Carlson captures Reno’s charm and glam the moment she strolls on stage. Carlson’s Reno is spunky and bursts with confidence every time she opens her mouth. There’s something endearing about her performance that makes Reno magnetic. She’s sure of herself and her abilities, whether she’s caught up flirting, putting on a show with her posse of starlets or scheming with a friend. And if all that weren’t enough, Carlson has a huge voice to match — and maybe even surpass — that massive persona.
Jared Young as the show’s protagonist, Billy Crocker, isn’t bad either. He’s cool and sleek and has chemistry with nearly everyone on stage, especially when paired with Carlson. Billy and Reno’s friendship feels authentic, a mix of teasing, flirting and admiration. Their duets, “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “You’re the Top,” are among the show’s highlights.
There are some great comedic characters aboard the liner too. During Friday’s opening night, Wade Robert Johnson’s Moonface Martin (Tuesday/Thursday/Friday, with Blake Barlow on Monday/Wednesday/Saturday) stood out from the crowd. He’s a mobster who packs heat with his machine gun, but he’s more of a loveable goon than a hardcore criminal. Then there’s Moonface’s partner in crime, Erma LaTour (Zoë Wilde), whose only focus is to win the hearts of each sailor on the ship. And Hope Harcourt’s stereotypically English fiancé, the fanciful Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Cleveland McKay Nicoll), has “hot pants” for making the audience laugh.
But the show’s cast is at its best when everyone is joined together on stage. Jennifer Hill-Barlow’s choreography — particularly during a dazzling tap dance sequence — is lively and full of thrills, capturing the excitement and bustle of an old-time ocean liner while exploding with nostalgic optimism. The production’s lighting (sometimes fading between bright blues and deep purples) and its sailor-esque set design add vibrancy to the show as well, opening the way for a sprawling ship deck to come to life on an otherwise small stage.
All in all, “Anything Goes” guarantees an enjoyable afternoon or evening for those who attend. It’s a comedy bursting with laugh-out-loud antics, thrilling performances and a little bit of heart too.
Content advisory: “Anything Goes” includes social drinking, mild swearing and sexual innuendos.