The main reason to see the 1934 musical "Anything Goes" is to enjoy Cole Porter's time-tested, catchy hits such as "You're the Top," "It's De-Lovely" and "I Get a Kick Out of You."
But if you're looking for an engaging story, you'll be disappointed. The plot is one of the weaker ones in musical theater with a silly story involving tomfoolery on an ocean liner bound for England. It's one of those shows where you immediately forget the details of what happened when you leave the theater. The dull story makes the 2½-hour running time seem longer.
Director Paul Tischer gets as much as he can out of this less-than-stellar material with his production for Modesto Performing Arts at the Gallo Center for the Arts. He made excellent casting choices with the two leads. Colleen Hawks-Pierce, an Oakdale native and Broadway veteran, plays Reno Sweeney, a nightclub singer-turned-evangelist, and Charles Osborne, a New York actor, plays Billy Crocker, a stowaway who will do anything to win the affection of a young woman on the ship.
Hawks-Pierce and Osborne's duet of "You're the Top" is the highlight of the show because of their witty delivery and funny gestures that act out the lyrics. Hawks-Pierce is a blonde beauty with an equally gorgeous voice. Her impressive career includes Broadway appearances in "Smokey Joe's Café," "The Boy From Oz" opposite Hugh Jackman and "Shrek the Musical."
Osborne is a dashing young man with an adorable way of giving bemused looks and raising his eyebrows. While he doesn't always hit the highest notes, he has such a winning demeanor that you don't mind. He's very good in the comic scenes where he puts on disguises to hide from authorities on the ship.
The rest of the cast features local performers who have varying degrees of skill. Natalie Cleek is sweet and earnest as Hope Harcourt, the young woman Crocker would like to marry. She and Osborne blend well in "It's De-Lovely." Local favorite Grace Lieberman is a good sport as Hope's mother, who is tricked constantly by Billy and his cohorts. Otto Coelho is humorously prissy as Hope's ill-matched British fiancé, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.
Ray Rustigian is endearing if vocally challenged as not-very-scary gangster Moonface Martin and Rachel Anne Pearre is endearing as his high-pitched girlfriend. Pearre does particularly well on her performance of "Buddy, Beware." Ray Leverett is brusque and self-absorbed as Billy's clueless boss.
There are occasional missed notes and moments of wooden acting throughout the production as is common in community theater presentations.
The big tap dance numbers are as showy as ever thanks to the choreography by sisters Holly and Heather Bettencourt. The 15-piece orchestra sounds polished under Carol Smeltzer's direction.Tara Roe and the Theater Company provide elegant, glamorous costumes for the cast.
The loyal fans of Modesto Performing Arts will find much to love about the staging. But newcomers may be put off by the corny story and lengthy running time.
Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan Renner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2313.
Modesto Performing Arts' 'Anything Goes'
WHERE: Foster Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
WHEN: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
RUNNING TIME: 2½ hours, including an intermission
INFORMATION: (209) 338-2100 or www.galloarts.org
* * * * Excellent; * * * Good; * * Fair; * Poor