Vibrant, over-the-top musical proves "Anything Goes"

A motley crew of mobsters, nightclub singers, priests, royalty and sailors rides a wave of hilarity and high jinks on the high seas in the department of theatre and dance's production of “Anything Goes.”

Directed by visiting artist Melissa Rain Anderson, an experienced actress and director from New York City, “Anything Goes” features a vibrant and incredibly well cast group of Geneseo performers.

The play harkens back to the flapper era with luxurious and decadent parties and personas. It tells the story of a love quadrangle between four young people from different backgrounds - all traveling on the same ship, the S.S. American. It achieves a trademark musical style with over-the-top song and dance numbers, fun characters, exaggerated comedy and relatable romance.

Sophomore Kevin Weber, who plays womanizer Billy Crocker, described the show as “the epitome of American musical comedy … Nothing is taken too seriously.”

Anderson said that, as far as talent goes, “the wealth is spread out” among the cast members. She couldn't have been more right, as there are certainly lead roles in the show, but all cast members have a chance to shine, and they all shine quite brightly. It's surprising how much stage time each role gets and how humorous each character is, even in brief moments.

“I've tried to create it so it feels like a radio show, so you could close your eyes and still get the story; the language will still continue. That's been our goal: to create the tempo and style that quickly,” Anderson said.

The cast members all have their own unique quirks - apparent from the first moments of the opening act.

Anderson utilizes the single, versatile set cleverly as members of the cast move in and out of revolving doors during dialogues between other cast members, providing a distinctive feel of a real ship and the nonstop life on it.

The costumes function well, but certainly don't overshadow the singing and dancing.

The tap number during the song “Anything Goes” is solid and cohesive. The cast, as a whole, has a great talent for the complex art of creating a pleasing sound and a visual appeal during the group dances.

Most noteworthy from the show is undoubtedly senior Elyssa Ramirez, radiating glamour and glitz as illustrious jazz singer Reno Sweeney. The role is clearly a perfect fit for Ramirez as an actress.

Ramirez said how she likens herself to Reno because “she's [a] performer always, but still a real person” who is “sharing something real and some real emotion.”

Ramirez's vocal performance lights up the auditorium as she belts out each of her numbers with fabulous precision, alongside acting that is convincing, consistent and hilarious. Her talent nearly outshines other cast members in certain musical moments.

Anderson said she chose “Anything Goes” because of the surprisingly raw nature of its comedic genre.

“Comedy is more vulnerable; with comedy, there's no mask,” she said. And with this awareness, she gives the cast the confidence and style to overcome their defenselessness and convey the show's endearing humor.

The goal of the performance, according to Anderson, is to “let yourself go.” With its carefree sound and vibrant numbers, seeing “Anything Goes” might be the perfect way to do just that.

“Anything Goes” runs through Saturday Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. and Sunday Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. in Alice Austin Theatre.