By Elena Auclair of Teen Theatre Company
(The following is a review of the performance of Anything Goes at Justice High School on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 from the Cappies, a program for theatre and journalism students through which students attend and discuss each other’s shows, write reviews for publication.)
Final call! All aboard that’s coming aboard! “Anything Goes,” presented by Justice High School was a smooth sail, with scheming passengers, showy performances, and sweet love.
With music and lyrics by Cole Porter, “Anything Goes” premiered on Broadway in 1934, and was produced many more times over the years. Justice High School used the 1962 revival, which tells the story of Billy Crocker attempting to win back his love, Hope Harcourt, from Sir Evelyn Oakleigh by stowing away on the S.S. American. Aiding him in his quest, Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin, go 20 knots a minute to keep him from being arrested, and to see true love triumph for all in the end.
Reno Sweeney (Andrea Pedemonte) was a charismatic triple-threat performer, who commanded attention whenever she came on stage. Pedemonte’s breath control during songs like “Anything Goes” was evident as she executed choreography cleanly and came back in for the final sustained note. The first-rate rapport between passengers made the repartee work, as Billy Crocker (Sam Wells) and Hope Harcourt (Viviana Luccioli) spent Act I demonstrating old-time charm, and Act II gathering sympathy in songs like “All Through the Night,” where the voice of Wells evoked singers like Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, and Luccioli’s expressions and reactions to Wells made the relationship believable.
The entire journey on the S.S. American wasn’t all about the lovebirds, however. Moonface Martin (Darien Roby) and his sidekick Bonnie (Dannica Gordon) were two entertaining gangsters with hearts of gold. Roby’s expressions, New York accent, and sleazy determination to see the trip through played well off of all the passengers on the ship, especially with Wells and Pedemonte, as they sang together in “Friendship,” which was a perfect “blendship” of the three actors’ reactions to each other and their solid harmonies. Gordon was a character the entire time, drawing laughs especially during a comedic bit at the brig, where she hung upside down and chatted easily about cigarettes. Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Max Belmar) was a British gentleman, complete with an upper-class accent, consistent comedic timing, and gestures that emphasized his comic yet earnest role.
The actors and ensemble were clothed by Zoe Greer and Naila Ohmke in classic 1930’s era outfits, with elegantly tailored suits and cute matching dresses for Reno Sweeney’s Angels. There were many quick changes, especially in songs like “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” which led to a dazzling reveal on stage from choir robes to show girl sparkles. The lighting emphasized the mood of the show with cool and warm colors in the back, and blue lights like water aiding transitions, suddenly swiping to the left of the audience to create a new scene in the brig with a stark white spotlight.
Justice High School’s production of “Anything Goes” never ended up in the doldrums but was a smooth sail from beginning to end. As all the passengers sang, in English or in French, this production was a “Bon voyage!”