Arts & Entertainment

‘Anything Goes’ at Bishop O’Connell High School

For its spring play, Bishop O’ Connell High School in Arlington is performing the Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes” this upcoming weekend. When asked why she elected to stage “Anything Goes” this year, director Gretchen Midgley told us: “After last year’s production of the far heavier ‘Little Women’ and the halt on shows in the Covid years prior to that, I knew it was time for our school to do a big, lighthearted musical. We hadn’t done a true dance show in over a decade either, and I thought it would be a fun challenge for the students to take on.”

There are many different versions of this musical which stems from 1934. Director-choreographer Midgely explains: “We are doing the 2022 revision, not to be confused with the West End 2022 production featuring Sutton Foster. The score is more akin to the 1987 Patti LuPone version, but the script has been revised to remove material which is problematic for a modern audience.”

For those new to “Anything Goes,” the musical has a delightfully frantic plot about a nightclub entertainer, Reno Sweeney, who is sailing to London. Her friend, Billy Crocker, sees her off and then remains aboard the ship as it is sailing away—without his having a ticket, passport, or money! He finds the object of his affection, Hope Harcourt, is also on board; she is about to marry an English lord. Madcap antics ensue, and “anything goes!” The key point about “Anything Goes,” however, is undoubtedly the catchy tunes and witty lyrics of Cole Porter, one of the luminaries of the Great American Song Book. Songs performed energetically by the cast include: “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” and the lesser-known “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”  Student performances are augmented by a seven-piece orchestra conducted superbly by musical director John Henderson.

Cast Members of Bishop O’Connell’s production of “Anything Goes.” (Photo: Cordelia Dreisonstok)

We had an opportunity to attend a dress rehearsal, and standout performers and memorable moments included: Eileen Parks tap dancing spectacularly as Reno in the title number “Anything Goes;” Matthew Secrest doing a wonderful comic turn as the surprisingly likable gangster Moonface Martin; Kate Stewart singing an impressive “Goodbye, Little Dream, Goodbye”  in her role as Hope Harcourt; and a very convincing acting performance of Samantha Rough as Hope’s mother, Mrs. Harcourt.  

We asked some student performers for their reactions to preparing a musical which is, after all, nearly ninety years old, and they responded with clear enthusiasm. Eileen/Reno, ‘23, replied: “This has been the best experience of my life! I love my cast both onstage and off, and this was the perfect way to finish out my time on the O’Connell stage.” Samantha/Mrs. Harcourt, ‘23, commented: “It’s my first musical! This was a big step outside of my comfort zone because I’m not really involved in musical theatre, but it’s been a great opportunity to try something new and make new friends.” 

Matthew/Moonface, ‘23, told us: “There are a lot of different interactions I have in this show, so I’ve gotten to collaborate and experiment with how characters communicate with one another, which is different from my experience in the past. I’ve enjoyed that experimentation.” Dani Vergara ‘24, who plays the comic part of Erma with flair, related to us that “I don’t really do a lot of comedic characters and am shy in real life, so it’s been a fun experience getting to show a different side of myself.”

“Anything Goes” runs for four performances: Friday, March 31, at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, April 1, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday, April 2, at 2:00 p.m. at Bishop O’Connell High School. For further information, please visit