By Jill Keppeler
When members of the Niagara Regional Theatre Guild were considering which show would end the group’s 2009-10 season, they decided to rewind the clock back to an old favorite ... “and now, God knows, ‘Anything Goes.’ ”
The comedic cruise-ship-set tale of a young businessman/stowaway, the heiress he loves, the nightclub singer/evangelist who helps him, Public Enemy, umm, 13 and a cast of similarly madcap characters, all set to a Cole Porter soundtrack, premieres Friday at the Cardinal O’Hara Performing Arts Center.
Director John Study said the show is one of his favorites, and that the cast feels the same.
“It’s a very energetic show, and a very good contract to our previous musical, ‘Children of Eden,’ which is a good deal more serious,” he said. “It’s a breath of sunshine.”
Jessica Stuber of the City of Tonawanda is cast in the role of nightclub singer/evangelist Reno Sweeney. Study said the University at Buffalo graduate, who has a degree in musical theater, has the voice and ability for the very demanding part, which calls for the vast majority of singing and dancing in the show.
“I’m very, very pleased to have her as Reno, because she’s a perfect fit for the role,” he said. “It’s not often you can get someone who fits a role so well, especially in community theater.
“She sings two-thirds of the songs. Every time you turn around, she’s belting out another one of Cole Porter’s standards.”
Stuber said she jumped at the chance when Study suggested she audition.
“It’s a wonderful role, one of those roles that as an actor you just dream about playing,” she said. “Reno’s a wonderful character, she has a lot of colors to her — and she gets to sing a lot of classic songs.”
Stuber’s musical theater background, fortunately, featured a great deal of training in the extensive amount of dance the role requires.
“It’s not anything I can’t handle, although I’m going a little out of my comfort zone because we’re doing some tap dance,” she said. “If you’re not an active person, a show like this could kill you!”
Study also lauded Dan Schrack of Niagara Falls, who plays the key role of Billy Crocker, the young man whose spur-of-the-moment bid to win back the woman he loves — engaged heiress Hope Harcourt — sets the events of the musical in motion.
Schrack performed as a child with the group back when it was the Niagara Falls Little Theatre, Study said.
“I lost track of him along the way — and then he showed up at the auditions for this show,” Study said. “He has a wonderful voice and an impossibly easy manner on stage. It’s something you just can’t teach.”
In addition to the distinctive characters, the show is stuffed with distinctive Cole Porter standards, including the title song, “It’s DeLovely,” “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “I Get a Kick Out of You” and more.
“It’s just such a tremendously fun show,” Study said. “It puts the comedy back into musical comedy.
“Musical theater has gotten so serious in recent years. That’s a nice move as far as the growth of the art form is concerned — but it needs to keep track of its comedy cousin.”
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: “Anything Goes” by the Niagara Regional Theatre Guild
• WHEN: From Friday through May 22. Shows will take place at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. An opening-night reception will include refreshments and a meet-the-cast-and-crew event will be held immediately following the show.
• WHERE: Cardinal O’Hara Performing Arts Center, 39 O’Hara Road, City of Tonawanda
• PRICES: Tickets are $14 pre-sale, $17 general admission, $15 for seniors and students and $10 for children 16 and under. Tickets for the show Sunday are $10 for all mothers
• FOR MORE INFO: Visit www.niagaratheatre.com or call 284-6369