Rockwall Summer Musicals
Directed by Linda Leonard
Music Director – Mary Medrick
Set Design Consultant – Donald Jordan
Lighting Design – Bear Hamilton
Costume Design – Dallas Costume Shoppe, Jan Miller
Properties – Palmer Ragsdale, Barbara Doudt, and Vickie A. Harper
Choreographer – Linda Leonard
Dance Captain – Amy Adams
Elisha J. Whitney – Phil Alford
Steward – Thomas R. Hogan
Reporter (Charlie) – Monte Monkress
Cameraman – Nathan Cobb
Sir Evelyn Oakleigh – Hunter Lewis
Captain – Al Wall
Mrs. Wadsworth T. Harcourt – Judy Perser
Hope Harcourt– Sally Glaze
Bishop Henry T. Dobson – Steven J. Golin
Reno Sweeney – Whitney Rosenbalm
Billy Crocker – Jason Bias
Moonface Martin – John Garcia
Ching – Bryan Brooks
Ling – Joe Britton
Purser – Patrick Persons
Bonnie – Shannon Ryan
Mary Duncan, Darci Hansen Ramirez, Robert Richardson, Kasey Miller Rhodes
Chasity – Kally Duncan
Purity – Cynthia Schafer
Charity – Amy Adams
Virtue – Beverly Etta
Angel/Hope Understudy – Lela Gannon
Angels – Whitnee Bomkamp, Elizabeth Drake, Lela Gannon, Keeli James, Raina McIlwain, Mindy Neuendorff, Zoe Settle, Kimberley Yoxall
Sailors – Bryan Brooks, Joe Brittain, Tyler Kirwan, and Corbin Tate
Girl 1 –Noelle Chesney
Girl 2 – Jen Brown
Girl 3 – Deelie James
MaKenzie Baird, Julie Blevins, Emma Ross
Reeds – Paul Dutka, Evan Wennerberg, Spenser Liszt, Chad Ostermiller
Trumpets – Terry Hagar, Sam McClellan
Trombone – Julian Leontiev
Keyboard – Melissa Williams
Percussion – Steve Begnoche
Bass – Maranda Shanz
Piano/Conductor – Mary Medrick
Reviewed Performance 8/14/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Anything Goes is a wonderful adventure musical set upon an ocean liner bound for London from New York in 1935. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt who unfortunately is engaged to Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. Befriending nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy #13 Moonface Martin, Billy relies on both of these new friendships to aid him in his quest to win Hope.
Debuting at the Alvin Theater on Broadway in 1934, the musical has been revived innumerable times in the United States and Britain and subsequently been filmed twice. The roles of Billy Crocker and Moonface Martin were written for the well-known comedy team, William Gaxton and Victor Moore.
Rockwall Summer Musicals undertook a huge endeavor to bring Anything Goes to their stage and they not only survived, but thrived under the direction of Linda Leonard. The cast had a comradery that was easy to see and their joy had the audience enthralled. Time flew by onstage as it does on an ocean voyage, and before I knew it our time was over and I was so thankful for the journey we had been on.
Music Director Mary Medrick guidance was phenomenal. Each of the musical numbers was a hit, not only because of the actors, but also by the outstanding job of the musicians. The orchestra was set at the back of the stage which led to the realistic feel of a cruise ship. This was by far the best musical that I have seen all year, mainly due to the harmony between these two amazing groups.
Donald Jordan’s set design created a grand, realistic cruise ship that had me counting down the days until my next cruise. Once the inside of the ship was shown, Jordan’s attention to detail was apparent. Through the construction of the set, the ship actually pulled apart to display the cabins. The inside cabin was a bright, airy yellow, while the porthole cabin was a rich navy blue with wood trim. I was most impressed with the brig, the jailed portion of the ship, which included a porthole. This and the cabins brought a continuity of being on a ship. The jail bars were realistic and placed to help enhance the scenes when it was in use.
Overall, the lighting design by Bear Hamilton was a success. He illuminated areas to represent not only the time of day but also to set the mood and tone. As the back cyc evolved through the colors of the rainbow, each change was to the beat of the song which supported the upbeat music. This idea only fell short in “Heaven Hop” where the lighting was so abrupt it distracted from the choreography and singing. Hamilton used a blue wash on the cyc to create a somber mood in “All Through the Night”, while a red in “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” congered up the sins that were exposed. Spotlights were well placed to keep the actors out of the dark, but were a bit wide and over-filled the stage.
Costumes by Dallas Costume Shoppe and Jan Miller deftly filled the ambience of the 1930’s as well as helped distinguish different times of day on the ship. The crew members were decked out in sailor suits with formal uniforms and hats for the captain and purser. The male passengers were dressed in either their finest three-piece suits or tuxedos to show their class level, while the two Chinese third-class passengers were in traditional (for the time period) garb with straw hats. The female passengers were adorned in dresses with gloves and fur wraps for the day, while evening gowns lent a more formal air of the nightlife on the ship. Each lead woman was dressed from head to toe, with special attention given to the headpieces the Angels wore. These feathered hats and headbands added to the flapper dresses of the performers. Reno Sweeney had so many costume changes that her role as an entertainer was completely believable. Moonface Martin’s costume was such a strict contrast to who he really is as Public Enemy #13 that his monk’s robe was as entertaining as his superman underwear and red knee socks, shown several times throughout the show.
The highlight of the show was choreography by Linda Leonard. Each dance number was not only in sync with the music, but highlighted the singing of the cast. In “You’re the Top” the dance movements went from center stage to the upper deck and each step was seamlessly executed and delivered without a hitch. Bonnie and the Girls were challenged physically in “Heaven Hop” yet they made it look effortless. Choreography for this musical is eventually expected from the whole cast which led to a full stage of smiles and grins as they finished “Anything Goes”, ending Act 1 on a high note. Leonard created a beautiful ebb and flow between choreography and acting.
Rockwall Summer Musicals created an excellent production not only as a whole, but because of the parts that make up the whole. While the artistic staff set the stage, it was the cast that continued to blow me away.
The entire ensemble was a joy to watch. They all gave 110% to make sure the audience would have a good time. From the tap dances to the vocals, every member of the ensemble was required to be part of the main action. Their ownership and radiated joy was returned to them from the audience in their standing ovation at the end.
Whitney Rosenbalm played Reno Sweeney. While vocally Rosenbalm was solid and strong, with a beautiful range in “I Get a Kick Out of You”, she didn’t embody the song, which made it feel like something was left unfinished. Rosenbalm excelled in the dance moves that are a huge part of Sweeney’s character. Sweeney is a confident nightclub entertainer, and Rosenbalm nailed the persona perfectly with her proper form and slight smirks. She held an air of poise that never faltered but only added to her untouchable character. In “Let’s Misbehave”, Rosenbalm showed a playful side with Hunter Lewis (Evelyn) that finally brought her character to life for me. Near the end of the show Rosenbalm was at the height of her performance in “Take Me Back to Manhattan.” Rosenbalm never faltered vocally and led this production to new heights.
Sir Evelyn Oakleigh was played by Hunter Lewis. Evelyn is an English gentleman, prim and proper to a fault. Lewis was over the top with his exaggerated facial expressions and movements to show the aristocratic personality of Evelyn. This was highlighted by Lewis’ high-pitched voice, feminine laugh, and prancing. Vocally, Lewis harmonized well with Rosenbalm in “Let’s Misbehave”, but unfortunately fell flat in “Gypsy in Me.” His focus on his choreography overshadowed his vocal ability. Through wide eyes and staccato enunciation in his English accent, Lewis brought out the true essence of Sir Evelyn.
Bonnie, portrayed by Shannon Ryan, is the right hand woman to Moonface Martin. Ryan had a perfect, high-pitched speaking voice to accentuate the flighty personality of Bonnie. Ryan was a phenomenal dancer, highlighted in “Heaven Hop” and “Let’s Step Out”, where she led the girls/Angels in chorus lines and dance steps. Through both of these songs Ryan’s vocals were pitch perfect and her tone held a whimsical note as Bonnie hoped to one day become an Angel.
Moonface Martin, Public Enemy #13, played by John Garcia, is the comedic relief to the musical and Garcia made sure the audience was laughing throughout. While at times it was hard to decipher what was scripted versus ad-libbed, Garcia used different voices and facial expressions to keep the audience guessing. Garcia’s wide eyes, quick movements, inflection, and specific enunciation helped create the dual role of Moonface’s dark side with his disguise as a monk on board. In “Friendship”, Garcia harmonized well with Rosenbalm and Bias, but vocally, his highlight was in “Be Like the Bluebird.” Garcia’s range and sustainability were fantastic as was his physicality, such as a flying bird, to illicit laughter from the crowd.
Sally Glaze played Hope, the young woman engaged to Sir Evelyn but in love with Billy. Glaze amazed me in this role with her quiet demeanor yet powerful speaking voice. Glaze’s demur looks only enhanced her confident air, added to by her smiles and light laughs. She was strong and powerful in “It’s De-Lovely” with Bias, harmonizing beautifully. Glaze was soulful in “All Through the Night”, her voice matching perfectly with the melancholy music that easily switched to hope within the song as the music changed. Hope’s confidence, through Glaze’s firm stance and knowing eyes, gave reality to the antics of Billy to gain her hand, yet always demanded honor over laughter from him.
Jason Bias portrayed stowaway Billy, the one who recently romanced Hope but is about to lose to Sir Evelyn. Billy is full of antics, clearly showed by Bias’ facial expressions of wide eyes and big gasps. His adoration towards Hope was highlighted with simple smiles and possessive stares. Billy goes to great lengths to visit with Hope including becoming a crew member, an old woman, and Public Enemy #1, Snake Eyes Johnson. For these disguises, Bias changed his voice and demeanor to portray each new character, yet never lost who Billy is to Hope, only to the others aboard. Bias’ vocals were outstanding and had me on the edge of my seat multiple times. In “You’re the Top” Bias was tested by some intricate dance moves, yet his vocals never wavered. His vocal strength was most impressive in “All Through the Night”, his mournful tone evident not only in his melancholy voice but in his downcast spirit. Bias was perfect for Billy through and through.
A couple of the minor characters were nonetheless well played. Phil Alford, as Elisha J. Whitney, portrayed the Wall Street mogul refined and then more amusingly as his drunken self aboard ship, never swaying from character. Judy Perser also played Mrs. Wadsworth T. Harcourt as refined, using pointed fingers and staring down her nose, and her portrayal was well executed for this matriarch of the family. Al Wall played the Captain, and while militarily formal, had a sparkle in his eye to help further the comedy along. Patrick Persons as the Purser was delightful. His quick and heavy-footed steps showed an urgency to find the criminals, and his vocal tone and facial expressions amplified the no-nonsense attitude needed for the crew to obey him.
It was an honor and privilege to be the first Column critic to ever review for Rockwall Summer Musicals. This production was outstanding and the quality and talent of the cast were superb. Anything Goes is a laugh-out-loud production that will have any cruise lover ready to embark on their next journey.
Rockwall Summer Musicals
Rockwall High School Performing Arts Center at Utley Middle School
1201 TL Townsend, Rockwall, TX 75087
**VERY LIMITED RUN through August 18th
Friday – Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 2:00 pm
Ticket prices are $19.00, $16.00 for seniors 65+, and $13.00 for students.
For tickets and information, go to www.rockwallsummermusicals.org or call the box office at 972-771-3700. Tickets can also be bought before the musical.