It's never a good idea to give a disclaimer before a performance. So when I heard a warning to prepare for goofy seventh grade humor before the opening night performance of Anything Goes, I felt my critic brain wheels gain full speed.
But then Music Theatre of Idaho broke rule number two: They didn't fulfill the disclaimer. I understand it was opening night and nerves were soaring, but most of the actors took themselves too seriously. By intermission, I realized that the show lacked absurdity--it needed to be full blown ludicrous in order for the 1934 script not to come across as racist and sexist.
The musical comedy that takes place on board a luxury liner. A young, not-so-in-love couple, Hope and Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, (Rebecca Duggan and Joey Calkins) sail to be married in England. Accompanied by the future bride's controlling yet oblivious mother, they both fall in love with others during the cruise. Hope adores Billy Crocker (David Mather), who turns sailor, chef, old lady, and many other disguises--along with delivering various accents with solid precision--in order to disguise his identity as a gangster. Sir Evelyn becomes the darling of Reno Sweeny, an evangelist turned nightclub singer, accompanied on the ship by her five Angels.
Girl and boy must marry. Girl and boy do not love each other. Girl and boy fall in love with others people. An original plot? No, not unless you've spent the last 60 years at sea. But it gets better. The plot thickens and so does the comedy.
Gangster Moonface Martin (Duston Calhoun), also known as Public Enemy Number 13, is traveling disguised as Reverend Dr. Moon. He's a loveable murderer producing myriad laughs, especially with his solo, "Be Like the Bluebird." Calhoun's attractive companion, Bonnie, (Annie Kennedy) appears right out of 1934 Brooklyn. She embraces her character so whole-heartedly, I wished to be her, with a pistol strapped to my thigh, flirting with the deckhands. Although Kennedy appears an innocent flirt, she owns her curves, moves, and voice to the point of becoming the deadliest one on stage. She also happens to be the choreographer for the show, which explains why she looked the most comfortable on stage.
The set design and costumes coincide with the acting in that they could benefit from a little more flare. The set, a giant ship, screamed Broadway, but with the exception of Bonnie's jail entrance, it lacked surprises. The costumes, on the other hand, were full of surprises, with some characters changing 20 times. Few costumes actually seemed to be made for their particular actors, though, and many sagged in odd places.
Despite all that, there are perks to seeing Anything Goes (beyond Moonface and Bonnie's dynamic duo), which include a live orchestra hiding somewhere stage left, a lively tap number, and delectable truffles at intermission. Oh, how good chocolate can cure any misfortune.
Aug. 17-19. 7:30 p.m. Nampa Civic Center, 311 3rd St. S., Nampa. $14.50 adults, $13 seniors, $11 youth, $15 at the door. For tickets, call 468-2385.