by Shirley Lorraine
Catch Anything Goes on Ojai Stage
Love on the high seas lends itself to high energy on the Ojai Art Center Theater stage, a welcome summer offering. The toe-tapping hit with memorable music and lyrics by Cole Porter is a favorite for both audiences and actors. Why? It’s just plain fun.
The S.S. America is sailing to England. Aboard is heiress Hope Harcourt, her fiancée Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, and Hope’s mother, Mrs. Harcourt. Also sailing is Reno Sweeney, a nightclub singer, and her back-up singers. Public Enemy number 13, Moonface Martin, boards with an assumed identity, as does Billy Crocker, a young Wall Street broker who once had a magical evening with Hope. A large cadre of other colorful characters fill out the passenger list.
The plot twists and twines with intrigue and humor as Reno and Lord Evelyn find themselves attracted to each other, Billy works to win Hope over and Moonface struggles with his disguise. It’s all good, clean merriment played to comedic heights and laced with energetic tap dancing and striking costumes.
Familiar Porter songs fill the stage including “You’re the Top”, “Friendship”, “Let’s Misbehave “and “Take Me Back to Manhattan”. Many in the audience left the theater humming the tunes and smiling from ear to ear.
In the starring role of Reno is Holly Sewell who embraces the brash persona with everything she’s got. Her Mermanesque song style rings through the rafters of the theater center. She fits the role of Reno like a glove.
Sewell is well matched by Troy Dailey, as Billy, who displays strong and clear vocal ability. Haley Weed plays the frail and beautiful young ingénue with panache. Her socialite mother characterized by Jill Dolan is a picture of grand stature. Sean Mason as the stuffy Englishman, Lord Evelyn, delivers throughout with a solid character.
The gangster Moonface Martin is given life by the talented John Medeiros who provided ample moments of laughter with just a look or expression. Kena Worthen portrays his sidekick, Bonnie, with verve. Medeiros’ solo of “Be Like the Bluebird” was a highlight among many highlights.
Kudos to Andy Street, musical director and pianist, and Dan Willard who added emphasis with a variety of wind instruments. They kept the pace lively and engaging. Musical and vocal director Jaye Hersh did a superb job of blending the voices.
All the players handled the extensive choreography by Janet McNeil well. The numerous tap numbers were a crowd favorite. Flattering costuming by Celia Williams and Haley Weed added sparkle and period whimsy.
Opening weekend played to an enthusiastic packed house. Director Tracey Williams-Sutton has pulled out the stops and given the show shine with a terrific talented cast, just the right amount of musical accompaniment and a polished look. Put attending Anything Goes on your to-do list.
The show looks great, plays big and gives everyone true value for their ticket dollar. For a good time, call the Ojai Arts Center Theater to reserve your seat now. And get there early as parking can be a challenge.
Ojai Art Center Theater, 113 S. Montgomery Street, (805) 640-8797 www.OjaiACT.org
All seats $20, Seniors &Art Center Members $18, Students $15. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7:30 p.m., Sundays 2:00 p.m. through August 13. NOTE early curtain time for the summer shows.