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Beef & Boards serves up frothy Cole Porter classic

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"Anything Goes"

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The music of Indiana native Cole Porter is still as popular today as it was when “Anything Goes,” the show for which he wrote the music and lyrics, premiered on Broadway in 1934. Celebrating its 80th Anniversary this year, it won the Tony Award 2011 for Best Revival. Now, Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, an Indy institution, presents its own version of this classic boy meets girl story at its venue on the city’s far northwest side. The show, which opened Friday and was seen the following Saturday, continues through May 11.

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Set on an ocean liner, the S.S. American, bound from New York to London, “Anything Goes” follows the story of Billy, a stowaway who falls in love with Hope, an heiress, on board the ship. Unfortunately, however, the girl is engaged to someone else and is to be married in a few days. Madness and mayhem ensue when a nightclub singer and a mobster get involved to help Billy win Hope’s hand.

Directed by Douglas E. Stark, the show’s cast, filled with B & B regulars, includes Deb Wims as Reno Sweeney, Timothy Ford as Billy Crocker, Whitney Meyer as Hope Harcourt, Susan B. Smith as Evangeline Harcourt, Jeff Stockberger as Lord Evelyn Oakley, Sarah Ledtke as Erma, Stark as Elisha J. Whitney, Jack Milo as Moon-Face Martin and Peter Scharbrough as the Captain.

Each cast member acquitted his or herself well, playing stock characters in this farcical romp that demands precision timing, which they all exhibited, and the ability to perform broad physical comedy, a talent that Stockberger, Milo and Stark, who all love to mug, possess to the nth degree. As far as their vocals, most of the performances were satisfactory except for Wims’ whose volume was so elevated that her frequent belting was harsh to the ear.

The talented members of the show’s ensemble deserve plaudits for their consistently high energy performances and for their always synchronous execution of Ron Morgan’s effervescent choreography, especially a tap dancing sequence during “Anything Goes” and in “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”

One has to truly suspend belief and put aside political correctness to appreciate and enjoy this anachronistic period piece with its stereotypical depiction of shuffling Chinese characters wearing straw hats. But it’s Porter’s timeless, inventive music that is the main attraction of “Anything Goes.” And on that score, the cast does a marvelous job of interpreting such songs as “I Get A Kick Out of You,” “You’re The Top,” “Friendship,” “It’s De-Lovely” and “All Through the Night.”

Although food is outside this writer’s purview, it should be noted that the Beef and Boards dinner buffet created by Chef Oddell Ward was as delicious and fulfilling as Porter’s scintillating lyrics.

For tickets and information about Beef and Board’s “Anything Goes” call (317) 872-9664 or visit www.beefandboards.com.

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