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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Anything Goes, A Review and More Than A Little Nostalgia

I went back in time on Saturday night, while being anchored fully in the surreal and now. Nearly sixteen years ago, in the spring of 1993, I was a chorus member in Worcester Academy's production of Anything Goes. While it was not my best role (that would come the next year, as the vampy, navel-bejeweled Courtesan in The Boys From Syracuse, but it's another story for another time), it was, by far, the best show we did in my four years there. Tap dancing, big numbers, brass in the pit, slapstick, gambling, drinking, mistaken identity, stuffy English guys, bawdy humor, romance; Anything Goes has it all.

Two years later, in the spring of 1995, along with classmate Jack Yu, I was the co-recipient of the inaugural Cole Porter Award in performing arts. Porter, as we all know, graduated from WA in 1909, and went on to be portrayed on film by Kevin Kline in 2004. He also wrote some music and stuff along the way.

So, if you've done your math, you know that this year marks the centennial of Cole Porter's graduation from my alma mater. In his honor, they reprised Anything Goes. They threw a per-performance dinner on campus, which included a tour of their recent installation of Cole Porter memorabilia. How could I not attend? I brought my mom as my date, because she appreciates such things.

For me, it was a unique mix of then and now. I knew the book, I knew the choreography, the blocking, the music, and sometimes, as I was watching the show, I was actually simultaneously seeing/hearing my friends who played those roles sixteen years ago. All the nostalgia aside, here's what I thought.

On the whole, the show was great fun, and a credit to both musical director/pit conductor Donald Irving, as well as director and Worcester area legend Bill Taylor. The pit orchestra, comprised of local professional musicians, including WA's own Al Vaudreuil, was top notch, and supported the cast with style. The costumes were a delightful surprise, with a student design crew, and in most cases based on authentic period patterns.

Nightclub chanteuse and self-proclaimed evangelist (saving "sinners" in a siren's red dress) Reno Sweeny, played by senior Sally Stempler, is a plum role, and Ms. Stempler deserved it. Her vocals were strong and nuanced, as was her presence on stage, and she delivered the choreography with grace. Liquor soaked Yale man, Eli Whitney [Leonard Kaminski], was winningly portrayed, as was financially troubled socialite mama Evangeline Harcourt [Abigail Small]. The show was, however, unarguably stolen by Evan Fonseca's gangster with a reluctant conscience, Moonface Martin. Fonseca hammed it up, visibly enjoying the role, and his comic timing and delivery were fantastic.

The only real trouble with the production was that, like many high school shows, it only ran for three days, and the rest of the '93 cast couldn't get there to see it.

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Blogger The Burger said...

I can't wait for the 20th anniversary performance of "Gimple!" :-)

2/25/09, 9:59 PM  
Blogger CDG said...

Perhaps, O Burger, my best roll was actually an oozing bit of bread dough. That was some great acting ;)

2/26/09, 8:10 AM  

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