The musicals “Anything Goes” and “Children of Eden” couldn’t be more different from one another. Currently on the local theater boards, each delivers entertainment clearly aimed at particular audiences.
“Anything Goes,” a staple since its Broadway debut in 1934, has undergone various incarnations over the years. It is frequently revisited by community groups, which are undoubtedly drawn to its giddy story line — set aboard an ocean liner bound for England and surrounding the misadventures of a female ex-evangelist, “a broken-down broker,” Public Enemy #13 and others — and a superb score by Cole Porter.
The songs have always been the show’s main attraction: “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and the title song, among others, and are performed in rapid succession.
The Theatre By the Bay production, under the direction of Lawrence Bloom, with musical direction by Richard Louis-Pierre, is fortunate to have strong leading players. Headlining as the renowned Reno Sweeney, a role originated by Ethel Merman, is the borough’s very own belter, Cathy Chimenti. She brings a strong voice, good comic timing and radiant smile to every scene she’s in.
Another Chimenti, her husband Michael, nearly steals the show as Moonface Martin, putting his quirky moves, double takes and sneering expressions to good use.
Mark Solkoff sings pleasantly as Billy Crocker, Reno’s old friend who stows away on the ship in an attempt to break up a planned marriage.
John Canning turns in one of his finest performances as the foppish Sir Evelyn, the intended of American heiress Hope Harcourt (Andria Amarosa), who arrives on board with her tart-tongued mother (Sonya Tannenbaum). Choreographer Chery Manniello provided the snappy, tap-inspired dances, as well as the colorful costumes.
The set designed by Bert Padovan marks a pleasant change from recent Theatre By the Bay productions, which were presented black box-style.
Those who prefer their musicals with a more modern, rock-tinged beat should check out Beari Productions’ rendition of “Children of Eden,” a show featuring the music and lyrics of Stephen Schwartz, which avoided playing on Broadway.
Staged by David Arzberger, who also provided surprisingly sparse choreography, the show is performed not only on stage but around and about the spectators, pulling them into the action. The entire cast, including toddlers, has obviously been put through their paces by a strong hand.
Based on some of the oldest stories known to mankind, the show focuses on Adam and Eve in the first act, while Noah and his family take center stage following intermission. The two halves are linked through several characters, principally one referred to as “Father,” who speaks and sings from the heavens above, as well as recurring themes in the score.
Gene Ferrari, in the leading role, was in fine voice at Friday night’s performance. Also singing well were Jahlil Burke as Adam and Sochima Udedibia as Eve.
Eleet Lucheonnie was appropriately slithering as the Snake, while David Cronin showed great intensity and a fine singing voice as Cain and, later, Japheth.
A couple of the performers, Rene Bendana (Noah) and the outstanding soprano Candis Alek (Mama Noah), were said to be under the weather on opening night, but carried on like troupers.
Julio Ulloa sang powerfully in the dual roles of Abel and Ham, as did Jessica Lausell as Japheth’s intended, Yonah.
One major asset was musical director Gia Gan, who conducted the pit, cued the singers and played piano simultaneously.
The sound design proved both a blessing and a distraction. Excessive amplification and an overly zealous drummer were overpowering, rendering many of the lyrics unintelligible. But the special sound and visual effects added much to the ambience.
Visually the show was delightful, beginning with the dramatic opening. The stage was bathed in color throughout. The costumes were particularly apt.