School Musical “Anything Goes”: Blows Expectations out of the water

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School Musical “Anything Goes”: Blows Expectations out of the water

Story by Elise Palmer, Features Editor

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If I’m being honest, when I first heard that East Meck selected Anything Goes for their annual spring musical, I was far from thrilled. The show seemed ancient, having been written in the 1930s, and to my dismay, included two racistly-portrayed Asian characters, who were thankfully written out for East’s production. Walking into the performance, I was not enthused, but with flashy show stoppers, a great cast and strong direction, Anything Goes blew my expectations out of the water.

Under the direction of theater teacher Bernadette Macleod and the musical direction of chorus teacher Kathryn Heinen, the East Meck Fine Arts department put on the production of Anything Goes from Feb. 14-16 in the Silver Auditorium.

The musical follows the adventures of Wall Street broker Billy Crocker (Shawn Knock), as he secretly boards a ship headed from New York to London to try and win over the heart of socialite Hope Harcourt (Nora Mehltretter). However, Billy faces a substantial challenge: Hope is already engaged to the rich, yet stiff Sir Evelyn Oakley (Darryl Eaddy).

Billy ends up finding help from unexpected friends: Gangster Moonface Martin (Tyler Jackson), Moonface’s partner Bonnie (Kate Carroll) and renowned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Julianna Kantor).

From joining the Navy to disguising himself as a nun, Billy takes great lengths to win over the hand of Hope. In the end, Hope and Evelyn call off their engagement, which they mutually agree is for the better. Billy and Hope end up together, as do Evelyn and Reno. The musical wraps up cleanly, and the finale is a feel good moment for the audience.

While the show concludes nicely, the overall plotline of the musical was hard to follow. The pacing seemed strange, and at times, I felt the urge to pull out my phone and google what was going on. This was not the fault of the cast, but the writing in the musical itself.

The cast performed tremendously, with strong singing, acting and dancing. In particular, the dancing was a huge step up from East’s past spring musicals, with choreographer Renee Welsh-Noel jampacking the numbers with content.

In “Anything Goes,” the last number of the first act, the ensemble performed a stunning and exciting tap routine. At one point in the number, the pit stopped playing, and all that could be heard were 20 pairs of tap shoes hitting the floor in unison. The number was tons of fun, and it made the audience want to jump out of their seats and join in.

Along with the great choreography, the casting choices by Macleod and Heinen were, for the most part, spot on. One of my biggest fears with this production was that the cast would not be representative of East’s student body, but the cast, along with the pit, and even the stage crew, were composed of students of all races, genders and grades.

The pit, comprised of 25 orchestra and band members, played well for the most part, besides a few wonky chords here and there. The Silver Auditorium does not have space for the pit below the stage, so they performed right in front of the audience. It was cool to see the pit take center stage, for they are often overlooked in a musical production. Having the pit in sight provided a vibrant energy to the theater.

The stage crew should also be commended. The transitions from scene to scene were seamless, and the lighting was always spot on.

The cast, crew and pit all played their respective parts well. The show went without a hitch. However, the music of the show was a hit or miss for me.

The cast sang well for the most part, but I found a number of songs boring and way too long. Again, the cast should not be faulted for this, it was the fault of the musical itself. There were a couple of standout numbers, and they showed just how talented the cast was — it’s a shame that their talents were wasted on such boring music.

For instance, “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” was one of the numbers that stood out. Sung by Reno (Kantor), it was arguably the best number in the show, and the music was fun and catchy. Kantor’s vocals were fantastic, and the shiny, sequined dresses Reno and her Angels wore dazzled the crowd. Overall, all the costumes looked fun and fresh, and they brought splashes of color to the stage.

Along with the flashy costumes, the set, designed by art teacher David Veto, was breathtaking. There was one primary stationary set piece, which resembled a part of a ship. The intricacy involved in all parts of the boat was impressive, and the boat was topped off with a 3D illusion — the result of clever shading. Huge kudos must be given to Veto and the set design team.

Anything Goes, though seemingly outdated and vanilla, was such a pleasant surprise. As a musical, Anything Goes is definitely not my favorite, but the wonderful cast brought the show to life. The passion of the actors could be felt by the audience, making it a delovely evening for all.