Endearing chaos meets razzle dazzle in UBC MTT’s Anything Goes

When everyone else was sitting at home during a mid-January snow day, Lauren Coulson, the director of UBC Musical Theatre Troupe's (MTT) rendition of Anything Goes, was sitting in Swing Space holding auditions for the production and wondering if anyone would show up.

They ended up with enough performers for two separate groups of leads and a fairly large ensemble.

“We’re lucky that we’ve had such a great team that we put together that were able to create that in two months,” she said in an interview with The Ubyssey.

Anything Goes follows Billy Crocker, a 1930s New York stock broker in love with Hope Harcourt, a debutante engaged to English Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. As Hope travels to England with Lord Evelyn, Billy hops aboard the S.S. American to steal her heart once and for all.

On this ship, he deals with Hope’s strict mother, his old friend Reno and his boss, Whitney, who told him to stay in New York. There are also subplots of mobster Moonface Martin and his friend Erma stowing away as Catholic priests, as well as two other budding romances: Whitney and Hope’s mother, and Reno and Evelyn.

The plot is as chaotic and confusing as it sounds, full of hilarious miscommunications, dramatic irony and quippy one-liners.

Elleda Spitzer, one of two actresses who played Reno, shone from the beginning, with a strong voice in her solo “I Get a Kick Out of You” and acting that embodied the confident, cheeky Reno you can’t help but admire.

The mobsters also had remarkable performances. Although a supporting character, Sol Goudsward stole the show as Moonface with impeccable comedic delivery. Erma’s solo song, “Buddie Beware,” was an especially strong number, showcasing Sarah Sutherland-Pace’s range as a comedic actress and powerful vocalist.

These performances are reflective of Coulson’s directing philosophy — she takes time to get to know the actors and their strengths, then figures out how to best help them showcase these skills.

“It’s not about me and what I can do … it’s about how comfortable [the actors] feel shining in what they bring to the table,” she said. “That’s the most magical part.”

Choreography by Miranda Baker and Paula Goldie was one of the standout elements of this show. From swing style and razzle-dazzle flash to slower waltzes and lifts, the choreography set the stage for the era and brought liveliness to every song.

Numbers like “Bon Voyage'' and “Anything Goes” were particularly impressive, considering how many people were on the small stage doing intricate movements. Some of the dance sequences felt a bit long, but I can applaud the performers’ clear engagement throughout.

It was a wonderful surprise to hear a live band instead of a track, especially in a smaller-scale production like this one. Sitting off to the side instead of in a lowered pit, the band wore little sailor hats to blend in.

“They just add so much to the ambiance,” said Coulson.

Trumpet players Caleb Lowe and Harold Renneckar especially shone, their brassy tones really elevating the believability of the 1930s-esque set.

At the Performance Works theatre on April 7, the team got a standing ovation. Overall, UBC MTT showed that truly anything goes in theatre, leaving audiences with warm hearts and a catchy tune in their ear.