PHOENIX: ‘ANYTHING’ FOR A LAUGH, AND LOVE

Clockwise from center: Jennifer Grasso, Kelsey Susino, Torie-Marie Gigante, Carly Nelson and Taylor Wallace are Reno Sweeney and the Angels, as the shipboard romp ANYTHING GOES marks the maiden voyage for a new season of Phoenix Productions musicals. (Photos courtesy Phoenix Productions)

By TOM CHESEK

The way Gary Shaffer sees it, “this is the best time of year to do a show — you work all winter, then suddenly it’s spring. People are energized and ready to come out and be entertained.”

If it’s mid-April in Red Bank, it simply must be time for a new season of musical entertainments from Phoenix Productions, the borough-based troupe that’s made a 25-year habit of putting on shows at that classiest of “community theater” venues — the Count Basie Theatre.

With pretty much the entire tri-state region endeavoring to shake off an epic winter of our collective discontent — and the irritating remnants of Sandy still being winkled from the Shore’s cracks and crevices — producer Tom Martini and company have rightly deduced that ours is a community in need of a little levity, a dose of laughter and a love song or two. The result is a 2013 season that favors a set of four feelgood Broadway classics over some of the edgier fare (Sweeney Todd, Rent, Miss Saigon) put forth by the Phoenix phalanx in recent years — a season that kicks off in style  Friday, April 19.

The vessel for this maiden voyage of 2013 is none other than Anything Goes, Cole Porter’s rousing romp of romance and rhythm on the high seas, and a crowdpleaser that director Shaffer describes as “a good, solid show with a funny book –and the cherry on top is the Cole Porter songs.”

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