As the lights come up in the theater at T.C. Williams High School, a small white chain rail can be seen at the edge of the stage, which has been transformed into a pier where a ship is about to set sail for "Anything Goes."
Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay, Russel Crouse and Cole Porter's answer to the Great Depression is a story of love, mistaken identity and, more than anything else, fun. Billy Crocker (Terrance Polite) follows his heart, in the form of Hope Harcourt (Carol Clark), onto a ship crossing the Atlantic from New York to England.
But the story isn't so simple. Billy must avoid his boss, Elisha J. Whitney (played to a crotchety T by Will Cooper), hide from the ship's purser, who believes him to be public enemy No. 1, and get Hope to desert her fiancee, the very silly and very British Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, played by the vocally dazzling Kenneth Hillary. All of the antics are only accentuated by second-tier mobster Moonface Martin (an expressive Zachary Greg) and his moll of sorts, Bonnie, played by a Mae West-inspired Alicia Cagnoli.
But the plum of them all is nightclub singer and sexpot extraordinaire Reno Sweeney (Tamika Robinson), who not only sings seven songs in the show but also has a pivotal role in bringing all of the subplots together. Robinson does an excellent job with the demanding part. Her powerful voice and commanding presence light up the stage in small group numbers such as "Friendship," where Greg and Polite also show off their vocal talents and facial expressions, as well as in company numbers such as "Anything Goes" and "Blow, Gabriel, Blow."
The company numbers feature impressive dancing led by Polite and student choreographer Rachel Shane-Lydon. Polite's tap solo is a show highlight. His graceful footwork and shining face elicit cheers while a tap dance-off that follows gives the show an unmistakable 1930s feel.
Several members of the ensemble also turn in memorable performances, most notably Lauren Abramson as Hope's haughty mother. Her intonation and aura of snobbishness lend a comedic breath of fresh air to every scene she is in. Also, Cagnoli's Bonnie is a real Manhattanite with an accent she maintains even while singing the deviant yet delightful "Heaven Hop."
Despite a few minor microphone and spotlight problems, the technical aspects of "Anything Goes" are strong. The costumes are eye-catching and fun, yet still reminiscent of the period.
Reno and Billy sing "You're the Top" at the start of the show, and the same could be used to describe T.C. Williams's production of "Anything Goes."
St. Stephen's &
St. Agnes High School
Terrance Polite cruises through three different nationalities, two sexes and several magnificent tap dances aboard the S.S. America in T.C. Williams's entertaining production of the 1930s classic "Anything Goes."
Often considered the quintessential 1930s musical, "Anything Goes" boasts a number of musical theater favorites from Cole Porter's score and sassy one-liners from the script by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. The plot is of relatively little substance, in the great tradition of 1930s musicals, but provides for tremendous romance, mistaken identities, physical comedy and impressive tap numbers.
Rachel Shane-Lydon beautifully choreographed the numbers with time-period flair, allowing Polite to display his grace and talent, comparable to that of Fred Astaire. T.C. Williams also deserves high praise for presenting a substantially student-directed show, with Chris Williams doing casting, blocking and other directorial tasks with only minimal guidance.
Alicia Cagnoli (Bonnie) stands out in a cast of strong vocalists, maintaining a distinctive accent and comedic vibrancy during musical numbers. Cagnoli seems less concerned with perfection of the sound than staying in character, resulting in easy transitions into song and wonderful interaction with cast members. Evangelist-turned-nightclub-singer Reno Sweeney (Tamika Robinson) also fits wonderfully into her role with a husky, powerful voice showcased in the number "Let's Misbehave."
A large ensemble taps out such numbers as "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" with great uniformity. While extraordinary dancers such as Shane-Lydon, Polite and Raymond Ejiofor get a chance to shine, the ensemble's grace and confidence never falters.
Flashy, over-the-top costumes and clever disguises give the show a fun, lighthearted air and provide amusement in the case of Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, who sports a pair of boxers adorned with red hearts.
While the vocalists preserve beautiful musical lines in many of the songs, Porter's witty lyrics are often lost, detracting from some of the show's comedy. Additionally, the upbeat, jazzy tunes have difficulty disguising lengthy set changes.
For a night of pure fun, audiences need look no further than a cruise aboard the S.S. America in T.C. Williams's production of "Anything Goes."
Whitman High School