Taking on Erma's Betty Boop voice and ebullient persona, Joyce Chittick gets a kick out of playing the effervescent gangster moll in the national tour of Roundabout Theatre Company's "Anything Goes."
"She's a hoot. I love everything about her. She's the good-time gal. She gets chased by all the sailors," Chittick said during a phone interview from Los Angeles.
In the 2011 Tony winner for Best Revival, Chittick first played Virtue, one of Reno Sweeney's Angels, then closed the Broadway run as Erma.
She remains enchanted by this 1934 classic musical comedy, re-energized in this lively version.
"It's a beloved show because it's timeless," she said. "People do it in high school, and love it. You start singing that Cole Porter music -- the songs are classics, standards -- and you get swept away. You cannot not fall in love with the music.
"Our songs have incredible arrangements. We have orchestrations featuring six brass instruments -- three trumpets and trombones -- they didn't cut back on music," she noted.
Audiences delight in the sophisticated lyrics, the dance numbers, and the comic characters, and it's a refreshing respite.
"They can forget their troubles and are transported to a different time. At the end, everyone leaves with a smile," she said.
And at intermission, after the 9-minute tap dance extravaganza title song number.
"This cast is very tight. We've been together since September. They are phenomenal, and Roundabout is a great company. They are very supportive of the creative process. They take good care of us," she said.
Chittick, a veteran singer-dancer who has been in a dozen Broadway shows, focused at an early age on what she wanted to do. Growing up in a Maine small town, she moved to Sparks, Nev. (near Reno), in sixth grade.
"It was culture shock. We moved from being in the woods in Maine to Sin City, a 24-hour town. There were slot machines in the grocery store!" she said. "But Reno gave me an opportunity to do community theater, something I couldn't do in Maine. I had incredible teachers."
"There's a song in 'A Chorus Line' with a lyric about dancing around the living room. That was me. I kept begging my parents for dance lessons, and I just took to it," she said. "I saw the Tony Awards on TV, and I said to myself, 'I want to do that.' From that night, I immersed myself in theater -- anything I could get my hands on. I loved it."
Her first show was "The Sound of Music" when she was 12. She played Brigitta, one of the Von Trapp Family children. The theater company had brought in an Equity actor to play Captain Von Trapp, and she was able to learn much from him.
"The show closed after two weeks, and I cried and cried. That's where I felt at home," she said. "This is where my home is."
At age 17, she was cast in a touring company of "Cats," and has been performing professionally ever since. (She graduated high school by taking correspondence courses while she was on the road.)
She met her closest friends in that company of "Cats," including Kathleen Marshall, who was the dance captain. Marshall would go on to an illustrious career, including three Tony awards. She is the award-winning director and choreographer of "Anything Goes" for the Roundabout Theatre Company, where she is an associate artist.
Chittick and Marshall have worked together on "The Pajama Game," "Grease," "Wonderful Town" and "Seussical."
Chittick has also appeared in the Broadway productions of "Cabaret" (Sam Mendes revival, as a Kit Kat girl and Frenchie), "Sweet Charity," and with Julie Andrews in "The Boyfriend." She was in a touring production of "Kiss Me, Kate," also with Rachel York, who plays the lead Reno Sweeney in "Anything Goes."
Describing herself as a character actress, Chittick said she has "worn many hats" and the main thing she has learned is to be flexible.
"It's been a wonderful life. It's hard, hard work. But it's been great," she said
Her husband, Rick Faugno, is also an actor, and played Frankie Valli in "Jersey Boys" in Las Vegas. He is now working in Los Angeles, so that's where she was during the "Anything Goes" company break.
"Home is now wherever he's at," she said.
What: "Anything Goes"
When: through June 9. Performances at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Sunday; matinees at 2 p.m. and Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, June 2; 1 p.m. Thursday, June 6.
Where: The Fox Theatre, 531 N. Grand Blvd., St. Louis
To purchase tickets: MetroTix.com, call 314-534-1111 or at the Fox Box Office.