New Line Cuts A Wide Swath With Unusual Production (For Them), Of “Anything Goes”


“Anything Goes” brings one hit after another at New Line Theatre. Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Before the erudite lyrics and crazy internal rhymes of Stephen Sondheim wowed musical theatre audiences, the wittiest lyricists around were from the pens of Noel Coward and Cole Porter. New Line Theatre, in a departure from their more off beat fare, have decided to delve into one of Mr. Porter’s more successful shows, “Anything Goes.” It was a good choice as those clever lyrics and dynamite book by Guy Bolton, the irrepressible P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse work perfectly for this always inventive local treasure that is New Line.


The ship’s captain (Dominic Dowdy-Windsor) leads a group in a more restrained moment in New Line’s production of “Anything Goes.” Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Starting with those wonderful songs- standards by anyone’s measure- “You’re The Top,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Friendship,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and the title song are all jammed into the first act. Although “Tinpantithesis” has always blown my mind, it’s wonderful to hear these often far-reaching but effective rhymes sweeping over the delightful and often silly plot line. Gangsters, pseudo-preachers, former lovers, celebrities, politicians and even Harpo Marx make for a great set of companions on an ocean voyage that all goes hilariously wrong but somehow oh, so right.


Evan Fornachon studies a passport as Sarah Gene Dowling and Aaron Allen look on in “Anything Goes” at New Line Theatre. Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

As usual, Artistic Director Scott Miller, this time with co-director Mike Dowdy-Windsor, has put together a superb cast of actors/singers who carry off the powerful music with strict attention to the charm and wit of the dialogue. Evan Fornachon leads the way as the wily Billy Crocker. Not only does he sing the heck out of the role, he shows us a leading man with the sophisticated wit of Cary Grant. His versatility of moving from head-banging roles such as “American Idiot” to romantic, old fashioned musical comedy is remarkable.


Eileen Engel bring us the lovely ballad, “All Through The Night” during the New Line production of “Anything Goes.” Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

His love interest (at least at the outset) is the perky, gorgeous and wonderfully funny Eileen Engel as Hope Harcourt. Her duets with Billy- the bouncy “It’s De-Lovely” to the plaintive “All Through The Night” are stellar. As her mother, Jimmie Kidd-Booker is also a comedy find with her haughty yet caring ways. Don’t worry, she- like everyone else on board- eventually finds true love.


Sarah Porter as Reno instructs her “angels” during the delightful “Anything Goes” at New Line Theatre. Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Sarah Porter simply lights up this musical and takes it to another level with her rousing portrayal of night club singer Reno Sweeney. From her solos and duets in Act I to her belting of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” in the second act, she just shines throughout this madcap high seas adventure. Zachary Allen Farmer always steals a show no matter what role he’s playing. This is no exception as he drolly whips himself into a very stiff upper lip frenzy with his presentation of Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. From dry, understated dialogue to his “cutting loose” with “Let’s Misbehave,” he simply delights.


Sarah Porter and Aaron Allen camp it up in the New Line production of “Anything Goes.” Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Another great comedy team is Aaron Allen as Public Enemy Number 13 and his sidekick, Bonnie, played by Sarah Gene Dowling. Mr. Allen’s tortured look enhanced by his equally tortured body language is nothing short of brilliant. Ms. Dowling’s escapades include leading the lively, “Let’s Step Out” number- another real show-stopper. Our old buddy, Jeffrey M. Wright plays the drunken businessman who stumbles his way in and out of scenes with great addled agility and hilarity.


These little devils are really “angels” in New Line Theatre’s production of “Anything Goes.” Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Reno’s angels are a stunning foursome led by Larissa White, Michelle Sauer, Alyssa Wolf and Sara Rae Womack. Both Sauer and Womack also handle the sprightly choreography that captures the spirit of the 1962 version of “Anything Goes” that New Line has chosen to present. The ensemble, playing a host of characters, also add to the fun and fantasy.


Zachary Allen Farmer charms both Sarah Porter and Eileen Engel with his dashing, witty English charm in “Anything Goes” at New Line. Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

Music Director Nicolas Valdez has also captured the true essence of this classic musical comedy. A shout out to his entire orchestra but in particular trumpet player Ron Foster. If any show needs crisp, clear notes, it’s “Anything Goes.” From the title number to the purposeful trumpet volleys of “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” it was nice to hear those soaring notes from the brass section. Colene Fornachon has added a delightful mix of appropriate costumes including those “just skimpy enough” costumes for the Angels. Rob Lippert has brought his magic to the set and lighting design, transporting us back to this Golden Age.


Part of the “Anything Goes” ensemble in the Cole Porter masterpiece at New Line Theatre. Photo: Jill Ritter Lindberg

“Anything Goes” is not, as most reviewers (and many audience members) say, the usual show you’re likely to see at New Line. But Mr. Miller and company have proven once again that they can make their own imprint on any musical- even a revered classic like this one. It plays through March 24th at the Marcelle Theatre. Give a call to 314-534-1111 for tickets or see more information at

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