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Wednesday, September 29, 2004



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COURTESY BRAD GODA
Randl Ask, left, is Moonface Martin, Stefanie Smart is Reno Sweeney and Andrew Sakaguchi is Billy Cocker in Diamond Head Theatre's "Anything Goes."




Bright, bold isle cast
does ‘de-lovely’ job


Fast, funny and lightly seasoned with timeless satire, Diamond Head Theatre's big-scale staging of "Anything Goes" is community theater at its best. Randl Ask, Andrew Sakaguchi and Stefanie Smart bring professional polish to the show as the leads. A diverse assortment of veterans and promising newcomers pool their talents to bring this Broadway classic to life as the opener of DHT's 90th anniversary season.

"Anything Goes": Presented by Diamond Head Theatre at 520 Makapuu Ave. Repeats 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 10. Tickets are $12 to $42. Call 733-0274.

Artistic director John Rampage excels at staging Broadway musicals on the local stage. His take on this one as director/choreographer is as good as it gets. The actors are well-matched. The big musical numbers fill the stage with color and well-synchronized motion. Musical director Alethea Train and her musicians give the cast solid support. The sound was perfect on opening night.

Rampage has wisely resisted the temptation to update vintage references, adapt the story for local audiences, or bowdlerize non-PC content and characters. Some of the jokes appeared too dated for the audience Friday, but the satirical observations on America's worship of wealth, fascination with celebrities and the use of show-biz techniques by evangelical types are timeless.

It would be impossible to improve on Cole Porter's lyrics, in any event.

And so we embark on a traditional light and frothy Broadway love story that hinges on mistaken identity and implausible disguises. Young stockbroker Billy Crocker (Andrew Sakaguchi) stows away on a luxury liner in hope of preventing the marriage of Hope Harcourt (Melissa Dylan) to wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Mikel J. Humerickhouse). Crocker is befriended aboard ship by Moonface Martin (Randl Ask), a criminal ranked No. 13 on the FBI list of public enemies, who is disguised as a clergyman.

Ask has distinguished himself as one of Hawaii's most consistent and talented actors with his performances as Captain Hook in "Peter Pan" and most recently as Herod in "Jesus Christ Superstar." This is another great show for him. Although he doesn't go quite as far over the top comically -- "Friendship" is clever; "Be Like the Blue Bird" is not an anthem with the same show-stopping intensity as "Herod's Song" -- Ask displays excellent timing, an astute sense of characterization and good command of comic material.

Sakaguchi is a fine romantic lead in his scenes with Dylan. "Easy to Love," "It's De-lovely" and "All Through the Night" provide sensitive romantic counterpoints to the satire and general silliness elsewhere. Sakaguchi and Dylan mesh nicely as a couple as the story develops. Sakaguchi's skill as a dancer also adds impact.

Smart is perfectly cast as big and brassy Reno Sweeney, a rough-edged celebrity evangelist and nightclub singer who uses her feminine wiles on Billy's behalf in his campaign to win Hope back. Smart has the first big song in the show, and after the first verse of "I Get a Kick Out of You," it's clear that she's going to be a great Reno. Smart goes from triumph to triumph with each song -- "You're the Top," "Friendship," "Anything Goes" and "Blow Gabriel Blow."

It's been several years since Humerickhouse took time off from his responsibilities as DHT's resident sound man to perform. His characterization of the stereotypical upper-class Englishman is well-played indeed. Humerickhouse keeps Sir Evelyn likable even when it seems he's destined to get Billy's girl. Who knew he has such skill as a comic actor? And who knew that he is such a dancer? Humerickhouse maneuvers Smart smoothly through their comic tango, "The Gypsy in Me," even as Smart's expressions add another element to that pivotal piece.

Several members of the supporting cast also stand out. F.L. Cabacungan (Elisha Whitney) takes another step from small roles to larger ones with a performance as Crocker's blustering boss; Liz Stone (Erma) plays a great comic moment to great effect in "Buddie, Beware," and Elizabeth Ananij Harrison (Virtue) stands out in several numbers as the hottest of Reno Sweeney's angels/showgirls.

Rampage ensures that each number entertains while advancing the story. Tap choreographer Caryn Yee adds the precision of ensemble tapping to his irresistible staging of the unforgettable title song just before intermission. Rampage's expansive use of the entire multilevel nightclub set in Act II makes that number, too, well worth its running time.

Certainly some classic shows haven't aged well, or have been updated in ways that disconnect them from their story. Others remain popular in revival but have little substance beyond novelty. DHT's "Anything Goes" is none of the above. Bright and bold, sophisticated yet uncomplicated, it offers anyone who appreciates 20th-century American musical theater a well-paced evening of delightful entertainment.



Diamond Head Theatre
www.diamondheadtheatre.com/


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