Setting Sail

'Anything Goes' showcases music of Cole Porter

Among the numerous surprises in Raven Players’ charmingly goofy production of Cole Porter’s 1934 musical Anything Goes is the shocking realization that significant parts of its plot were brazenly borrowed, 63 years later, by movie director James Cameron for his 1997 epic Titanic.

On an ocean cruise, lower class stowaway Billy Crocker (Roy Kitaoka, in gorgeous singing voice, if a little under-experienced in the acting department) falls hard for the upper-class Hope Harcourt (Emily Thomason, wonderful), whose mother (Caroline Cole-Schweizer), having lost the family’s fortune, is forcing her daughter to marry a rich English lord (a delightful Craig Bainbridge). The plot even lands Billy in the brig, from which he must somehow escape in time to save Hope from a life she’s not content to live.

That, more-or-less, is the Jack-Rose storyline from Titanic.

This realization made me wonder how much better Cameron’s disaster-romance would have been if he’d stolen more of Cole Porter’s play—in particular, its musical score. One need not be a Cole Porter expert to recognize such memorable classic tunes as “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” and the title song, “Anything Goes.”

In the Raven’s fizzy, occasionally fuzzy production of the musical—an ambitious undertaking for any community theater company, with its massive cast of singers and dancers—the music is nicely supported by a fine nine-piece orchestra under the baton of musical director Lucas Sherman.

Supporting the first-rate singing and dancing of Kitaoka and Thomason is the spectacularly good Brandy Noveh, as the scandalous cabaret-showgirl-evangelist Reno Sweeney, and her quartet of backup “angels,” Purity (Chelsea Smith), Chastity (Melanie Toth), Charity (Ellie Condello) and Virtue (Tika Moon). Noveh, a newcomer to the local stage, is a knockout. With her killer voice and accomplished dancing (even engaging in a tap number or two), Noveh makes a strong, fresh impression and will hopefully be getting a lot of work in the local theater scene.

The show itself, mainly designed as a showcase for Porter’s genius, gets a bit sea-sick and silly, especially whenever the good-hearted gangster Moonface Martin (a hilariously hammy Jeremy Berrick) gets involved. In a cast this big, not all the singing voices can be as good as the magnificent leads, but as directed by Joe Gellura, and with the help of set designer James Anderson and choreographer Sandi Lang, it does its job as fluffy, silly, light-hearted entertainment. Unlike Titanic, it never quite sinks under the weight of its silliness.

Rating (out of 5): ★★★★

Sonoma County Library