Everything Goes Great at Encore Musical

By Daniel Skora

Olivia Hernandez as Reno and Sebastian Gerstner as Billy All photos by Michele Anliker

No one could possibly have been disappointed had The Encore Musical Theatre followed up their Season 10 opener with something less than perfection. “Sweeney Todd”, after all, was nothing short of spectacular and might have been expected to stand for many years as the finest revival of a big-time Broadway musical that a small town theatre could ever hope to achieve. The show succeeded in every category upon which a production can be judged, and it played to sold-out audiences throughout its run. “Sweeney Todd” may have been helped by its dark theme and unusual plotline, but what “Anything Goes”, Encore’s follow-up production, lacks in gravitas, it more than makes up in sheer entertainment value.

“Anything Goes” opened on Broadway in 1934. By today’s standards, it’s dated, dealing with gangsters and ocean travel by boat rather than airplane. Billy Crocker (Sebastian Gerstner) is a Wall Street broker who stows away on an ocean liner after falling for an American socialite named Hope (Emily Hadick), who is a passenger traveling to England with her fiancé Lord Evelyn Oakley (David Moan), a wealthy Englishman. Also on the journey are Reno Sweeney (Olivia Hernandez), a former evangelist who has now become a nightclub performer, Moonface Martin (Dan Morrison), Public Enemy #13 on the FBI’s most wanted list, and his moll Erma (Elizabeth Jaffe). The storyline that develops after everyone has had a chance to get to get to know each other is about love and romance with a mistaken identity or two thrown in for good measure.

Elizabeth Jaffe as Erma and Dan Morrison as Moonface

What gives the “Anything Goes” its timeless appeal is the wonderful songs of Cole Porter, whose music and lyrics are no less delightful now than they were 80 plus years ago. Songs like “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “You’re the Top”, “Friendship”, “It’s De-lovely”, and the title song “Anything Goes” have since become both Broadway and American Songbook standards.

Both the 1987 and 2011 Broadway revivals of “Anything Goes” won Tony Awards for Best Choreography, and Encore’s production continues in that tradition of dancing exceptionalism. Choreographer Rachel Costantino, with assistance from Dance Captain Paige Martin, move a lot of dancers through some very demanding and intricate maneuvers while managing to make it look easy. The tap-dance number, as the expression goes, is by itself worth the price of admission.

Sebastian Gerstner, Olivia Hernandez, and Caroline Ragland as Purity

Much of the comedy in the show is of the corny variety, but what’s a healthy meal that doesn’t include some starch. One highlight occurs when Moan’s Lord Oakley character lets down his hair with Hernandez’s Reno and shows he can tango with the best of them. All the talents of both the principals and the ensemble are a joy to behold.

Others with prominent roles include Wendy Katz Hiller (Evangeline Harcourt), Jeff Steinhauer (Elias Whitney), Dale Dobson (The Captain), and playing Reno’s four Angels, Caroline Ragland (Purity), Bryana Hall (Chastity), Kristin McSweeney (Charity), and Luciana Piazza (Virtue).

Olivia Hernandez and David Moan as Lord Evelyn Oakley

Director Thalia V. Schramm is to be complimented on yet another fine Encore directorial assignment. Tyler Driskill plays piano and directs the six piece live orchestra. Set design is by Kristen Gribbon, costumes by Sharon Larkey Urick. Lighting comes courtesy of Tyler Chin, sound design is by Dustin Miller and Meg Berg. Props design is by Anne Donevan while stage manager for the production is Megan Paruta.

“Anything Goes” is musical entertainment at its best and a delectable holiday treat as well. Filled with fun and frolic, tickets are going fast, with several shows nearly sold out. As Lord Oakley, who’s having trouble with his prepositions on the way towards understanding American colloquialisms would say to those who want to see the show, “Step in it”. The show runs through December 23rd and tickets are available by calling 1.734.268.6200 or going online at www.theencoretheatre.org/tickets. Encore Musical Theatre is located at 3126 Broad Street in the historic village of Dexter. If you’re coming west on I-96, exit at Baker Street.

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