Footlite show on a ‘Cole’-fired ship

By John Lyle Belden

With so much drama around us, sometimes it’s nice to indulge in a light musical: All aboard, then, for a “De-Lovely” voyage aboard the SS American in Footlite Musicals’ production of “Anything Goes.”

The comic plot involves love, gangsters on the lam, and a lot of silly disguises and misunderstandings. Billy Crocker (Trenton Baker) wants to stop his girl Hope Harcourt’s (Sydney Norwalk) ill-advised marriage to English “gentleman” Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Ryan Straut), and gets aid from “America’s Thirteenth-Most-Wanted” Moonface Martin (Tom Bartley) and song-and-dance sensation Reno Sweeney (Susie Harloff).

While that’s good for some laughs, the show’s main purpose is as a delivery vehicle for the hits of Cole Porter (“You’re the Top,” “De-Lovely,” “Friendship,” “I Get a Kick out of You,” “Blow Gabriel Blow” and more, including the title tune) and at that, this production delivers.

Norwalk makes a shining Footlite debut; Baker provides his triple-threat credentials; and Harloff, with the help of Reno’s Angels (Kristen Tschiniak, Becca DeTar, Tara Roberds and Nicole Bridgens) takes charge of the ship with dynamite song and dance numbers (with much credit due to Trish Roberds’ choreography). Straut’s frantic fop is a hoot, and Bartley’s comic chops are spot on, aided by another brilliant performance by Emily Schaab as Martin’s accomplice, Bonnie. Craig Kemp adds to the laughs with his hard-luck businessman, Elisha Whitney (Crocker’s boss). Also impressive are dancing sailors Kyle Cherry and Noah Fields.

The book is admittedly a little dated – and director Kathleen Clarke Horrigan admits as much in her opening curtain speech – but this old gem still entertains. Performances are weekends through March 19 at 1847 N. Alabama St., near downtown Indianapolis. Call 317-926-6630 or visit www.footlite.org.

John L. Belden is also Associate Editor and A&E editor of The Eagle (formerly The Word), the Indianapolis-based Midwest LGBTQ news source.

IndyFringe: The Rhythm Chronicles

By Wendy Carson

The Rhythm Chronicles strives to give the viewer a history lesson on the evolution of tap dancing in America. However, much of this is done through the use of a pre-recorded “conversation” between two disembodied voices. Not only is this device sluggish and often condescending, it greatly detracts from the dancing itself, which is the whole point of the show. Also, it doesn’t help that the voices speak over a dark empty stage, further making the show feel disjointed.

That said, let’s talk about the dancing. From the opening Irish step-dancer and aAfrican tribal performer, the dance numbers highlighted are wonderful. The skill, athleticism as well as the style are all excellent and the dancers are all a joy to watch. Each number builds upon the previous, leading up to a grand finale that is worth the whole ticket price alone.

Hopefully, Circle City Tap Company will find a way to rework this show with a better narrative tool so it can be the fully realized gem that the show should be.

And a note for hoofers of any skill: all in the audience are invited down to the stage at the end to join in the Shim-Sham Shimmy.

Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 26-28, on the Phoenix Theatre main stage. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.