REVIEWS: ‘Anything Goes,’ ‘Catch Me,’ ‘The Chairs,’ ‘The Lucky Chance’

Anything GoesStephen Sondheim Theatre (formerly Henry Miller's Theatre)

It’s a busy season for theaters, with opening and closing coming fast and furious. Few things, though, as as fast and furious as the tap-dancing in Anything Goes, which continues its run this weekend at the Winspear Opera House. The national tour of this Tony Award-winning revival is part of the classic strain of American musicals where quick-witted people end happily while dancing their asses off, all the the tunes of folks like Cole Porter. There are more hits in this score than during a Mafia wedding: “Friendship,” “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” “It’s De-Lovely” and, natch, the title tune. If hearing the sounds that make up the foundation of the Great American Songbook, belted out like Merman on speed, isn’t your idea of a fun night of theater, there’s something wrong with you.

Rachel York leads the cast as Reno Sweeney, the sassy cabaret star who’s chasing after a boy who has eyes on another girl, who is engaged to be married to a British lord, who doesn’t care much about marrying her …. Oy. Plot is not its friend. But jaunty one-liners, sexy men in sailor suits and timeless songs are. Even 80 years after it opened, the energy is as fresh as morning glory. (Through Sunday.)

How, then, can Catch Me If You Can at Fair Park Music Hall, which is just two years old, feel so much more dated than Anything Goes? Scored by the team that did Hairspray (partners Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman) and written by Terrence McNally, it’s also set in the 1960s and based on a hit movie. And that’s where the similarities cease.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Steer ‘n’ the ship: Oklahoman Ryan Steer is onboard for ‘Anything Goes’

Steer_Ryan_Headshot

Most gay guys have a “thing” about sailor suits — from the time their moms dress them up in one through the Village People singing “In the Navy” and until they pant over the sailors disembarking during Fleet Week, nautical fantasies are common.

And Ryan Steer gets to live it.

Steer is one of the ensemble members in the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes, which docks into the Winspear for 10 days starting tonight. And he enjoys the chance to dress up like a seaman.

“I’m constantly changing costumes from sailor suit to tuxedo,” he says, and “while I think all of the costumes are out-of-this-world amazing, I do adore our sailor suits — they were made to have this MGM glamour quality to them. They are very tight in the butt and make all the sailors look like caricatures of strongmen, with broad shoulders and tiny waists. I don’t think anyone’s pretending that’s not a draw. And, they are very comfortable.”

Steer probably doesn’t need to pretend to be a strongman — the young (he’s 26), strapping Oklahoma native cuts a dashing figure in street clothes. But even so, touring with the Tony Award-winning production has been something of a dream for him.

“It is a family,” he says of his company, some of whom came directly from the Broadway production but most of whom are newcomers to the show. “Rachel York is a perfect Reno Sweeney — she’s just stellar in the show.”

Still, Steer’s familiarity with Anything Goes was surprisingly thin when he was tapped to be in it.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: “Fashioned Forward” Gaultier music exploration at the DMA fails

Last night held a whole lot of mixed feelings for me.

I finally made it to the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art, thanks to a sort-of ticket-only pre-show viewing. The crowd wasn’t so thick and I could soak in all the edgy, avant garde work by the designer, as well as the innovations used in the exhibit — mannequins with animated faces, two-level displays and an automated runway showed the museum really upping their game. It made me  proud of the place. And the exhibit itself was full of energy.

But then came the reason we were there.

Fashioned Forward was billed as “a musical exploration of the creative spirit of fashion icon Jean Paul Gaultier.” I was fascinated by the idea of pairing music with fashion, like wine with food. With punk rock skirts for men and ornate corsets made of straw, I could only imagine how the side-by-side would be.

I did not expect what happened.

A cast of four singers, a guitarist and a pianist made up the cast for the night, led by artistic director Ryan Taylor (not onstage). The Horchow Auditorium was packed with a diverse crowd and the show opened with Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” followed by John Duke’s “Morning in Paris.” Unfortunately, it started the show on the completely wrong stiletto. American standards aren’t what I picture as augmenting the hard edges and spiky textures of Gaultier. Not. At. All. Foreign language songs like “Chiome d’Oro” disengaged the show even more, and poems about (or merely mentioning) fashion were peppered in without much effect while slides of fashions acted as backdrops for works intended to relate to that look.

That was the first half.

—  Rich Lopez

Let’s misbehave

Turtle Creek Chorale, from Cole Porter & beyond

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

OLD  KING COLE | The Turtle Creek Chorale, led by artistic director Jonathan Palant, above, closes the season with an ode to queer American composer Cole Porter.

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NIGHT AND DAY
Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St. June 23 and 26 at 8 p.m. $37–$65.
TurtleCreek.org

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The name Cole Porter conjures in most people an erudite American composer, the one who wrote the witty ditty “Anything Goes.” But who knew he was kind of a perv — at least, as a lyricist?

While the members of the Turtle Creek Chorale plan to keep their composure in the upcoming concert Night and Day: The Music of Cole Porter, artistic director Jonathan Palant reveals that Porter had an edgy side. His song titles alone are some obvious giveaways, but hidden lyrics about penises and post-op eunuchs are shocking.

“He was really smart, but yeah, a little dirty,” Palant says. “We’re not singing those lyrics of course, but it’s not hard to figure it out with songs like ‘I Wanna Be Raided By You’ and ‘Rub Your Lamp.’”

And then there’s the snicker effect when Palant discusses the tunes that thread throughout the concert.

“The songs that link the show include ‘Blow Gabriel Blow,’ ‘You’re the Top’ and… yes, I know,” he says. “The TCC blows and tops Cole Porter — that could be your headline!”

The concert will, in true Turtle fashion, feature a heavy dose of fabulousness. It isn’t just a celebration of Porter, it’s a choral romp with showmanship. Michael Serrecchia directs and choreographs the show, which will feature the Turtle Tappers, a group of 15 dancers with a twist, dueting puppets, circus clowns and strongmen. Add featured vocalist Denise Lee and lead dancer Jeremy Dumont, and it will become an event.

Even while steeping in standards from the American Songbook, Palant and Serrecchia bring a modern take to the program with some mashups, like Lee fusing “Let’s Misbehave” and “Let’s Fall in Love” in what Palant calls “a duet with herself.” Yeah, and puppets.

“She’s so funny and clever,” he says. “The puppets are twins but she’s the voice. We’re thrilled to welcome her back to the stage. She has such a rapport with the men and the audience. You just fall in love with her.”

“This is very much a fun, Friday night out at the movies show,” Palant says. “It doesn’t pull at heartstrings, there’s no memorial, no loss but not ‘ooey gooey.’ It’s just fun and people can come and enjoy. They don’t have to think, they can just be entertained — which is one of the pillars of our mission.”

With that, he does hint at what to expect in the near future. The chorale will mark its upcoming 32nd season with special guests including the Fort Worth Symphony and the return of the United States Army Chorus.
And, Palant promises, “an ode to Madonna.” Both Madonnas, actually.

Until then, it’s about Cole Porter and what he wants the audiences to not only enjoy, but learn from. Palant bets people are more familiar with Porter than they think: His melodies permeate everything from commercials to elevator music. For Palant, that is part of Porter’s legacy and magic.

“When I listen to the radio, I go through the station until I find a song I like,” he says. “Then I stay on that station to hear other songs. Porter’s music transcends through history and sparks familiarity, so people will hear his popular songs but learn about new ones.”

Which is just de-lovely.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens