Anything Goes (海上情緣) at the National Concert Hall on Saturday night was delightful, de-lovely, delicious and definitely frothy enough to make up for Sugar Plum Fairies, candy canes or other more Christmassy fare.
After humming along to Cole Porter for an evening, it’s hard not to drop some “d” words into your conversation, such as demure debutante, divine diva and a definitely dashing dandy of a leading man. And best of all, ringing down the curtain at the end of Act 1 were three-dozen tapping terpsichoreans, hoofing their way into the National Theater Concert Hall history books and the audience’s hearts.
In the lead role of Billy Crocker, American actor Jeremy Benton evoked Fred Astaire as he glided through his tap routines, traversing the stage so fluidly that only the clicks reminded you he was actually touching the floor. He has a fine tenor voice as well, which he showed to good effect in Easy to Love, It’s De-Lovey and especially the divided lovers’ duet All Through the Night.
Photo: Taipei Times
Taiwanese American singer eVonne Hsu (許慧欣) played Billy’s love interest and she was a revelation both as a singer and actress, as well as moving through the dancing parts with ease.
In fact, one of the notable things about the production was just how well the local cast members’ voices fit their roles. Priscilla Chung (鍾天慧) vamped as the gangster moll, Erma, but showed she had the chops with Buddy, Beware, while Chen Chia-kuei (陳家逵) took a comic’s delight in his gangster’s role.
Hu Yue-jy (胡與之) may be a classically trained pianist and conductor, with a British accent honed while he studied at the University of London, but he certainly gave the audience a kick sending up his English lord character with his solo, The Gypsy in Me, clad in a red-satin-lined gray bathrobe, red boxer shorts, black socks and red garters. Complete with troupe of a gypsy dancers, it was terrifically over the top.
However, it was jazz singer Mandy Gaines as Reno Sweeny who brought the roof down with her solos in Anything Goes: Blow, Gabriel, Blow and I Get a Kick Out of You. I’ve known Gaines for years and seen her perform many times, but the rest of the audience was equally, if not more, impressed.
The only problem was in the miking. Ted Runchie, the show’s musical director, led the ship’s eight-piece band from atop a center platform — and the band’s location might have contributed to the problem. The band was up almost as high as the level of the Concert Hall’s organ pipes (hidden from sight) and acoustically the hall is built for those pipes. In the non-song segments it was often difficult to hear the actors’ lines over the background music; even Benton sometimes got washed out. Audience members who were reading the Chinese-translations probably didn’t mind, but the dialogue in Anything Goes is often just as witty as Porter’s ditties and it was a pity that the word-play lost out.
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