You’ll Get a Kick Out of Musical Classic ‘Anything Goes’

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Syndicated Stage Reviews in Print + Online
BY BRUCE APAR
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act


Westchester Broadway Theatre
Presents
ANYTHING GOES
Music + Lyrics by Cole Porter
Original Book by P.G. Wodehouse + Guy Bolton and Howard Lindsay + Russel Crouse
New Book by Timothy Crouse + John Weidman
Directed + Choreographed by Richard Stafford
Musical Direction by Patrick Hoagland
Through September 9, 2018
Tickets > BroadwayTheatre.com


The informative program each patron receives at Westchester Broadway Theatre.

I’ve loved Broadway musicals since I was smaller than a piano bench. That’s one reason I enjoy writing about local productions in this space. The more people who go to musicals, the happier it makes me.

I didn’t realize how old-fashioned about musicals I could be, though, until my wife Elyse and I at long last saw Wicked. It only took us 15 years to get there. Last week (on July 12, 2018), it became the sixth-longest-running show in Broadway history, surpassing A Chorus Line.

Here’s the kicker: We were underwhelmed by the overwhelming spectacle that is Wicked. It struck us as more of a gimmicky, dizzying theme park ride than a clear-eyed musical theater experience.  As the show biz joke goes, I was more tempted to walk out of there humming the scenery than the songs.

Jackie Raye (as Hope Harcourt) and Zach Trimmer (as Billy Crocker). All photos by John Vecchiolla

It did my gray-hair taste good, then, to see a decidedly simpler, more straightforward style of musical at Westchester Broadway Theater in Elmsford: Anything Goes. The good news is you have the rest of the summer to catch this light-hearted Cole Porter classic, which runs through Sept. 9. If you’re old-fashioned like me, you’ll get a kick out of it. (Ticket information at 914.592.2222; BroadwayTheatre.com).

GAMES OF ROMANTIC CHESS 

The cute plot, set aboard an ocean liner headed to New York from England, mixes and matches several couples, with cases of mistaken identity and games of romantic chess. Young stockbroker Billy Crocker (Zach Trimmer) hopes to catch the eye of debutante Hope Harcourt (Jackie Raye), who is engaged to wealthy Englishman Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Kevin Pariseau), while nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (Stacia Fernandez) has her own hopes up for hooking up with Billy… and so on. “I’m in love,” Billy tells Reno, who replies, “I’m in cabin 13.”

The story, with a pedigree by way of legendary humorist P.G. Wodehouse, is clever and serviceable enough. It’s also mostly beside the point, as plots usually were in big musicals before Rodgers & Hammerstein teamed up for Oklahoma.

(from left) Zach Trimmer (as Billy Crocker), Jon J. Peterson (as Moonface Martin), Stacia Fernandez (as Reno Sweeney).

In Anything Goes, the Cole Porter songs are the stars and the coolly kinetic tap-dancing is the exuberant heartbeat. Both are well-served under the direction and choreography of Richard Stafford. As captain of the show, he navigates a smooth, steady course that keeps action and production numbers sailing along briskly and seamlessly.

ALL ABOARD FOR A BOATFUL OF COLE PORTER STANDARDS 

Kudos go also to musical director Patrick Hoagland for spirited and infectious arrangements of standards like “You’re the Top,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Friendship,” and the title song, all of which set feet a-tappin’ not only on stage, but in the audience too.

Adding greatly to the show’s colorful, upbeat glamour are the set design by Steve Loftus, lighting by Andrew Gmoser, and imaginative nautical and period costumes by Keith Nielsen. The ship is effectively and efficiently depicted with an upper deck and a towering trio of luminescent smokestacks.

The cast of Anything Goes.

Movable set pieces are maneuvered on and off the three-sided proscenium stage with the audience hardly noticing. The brief scene changes upstage are nicely covered by ensemble couples performing ballroom dance movements downstage. It’s a nice touch that keeps the audience in the moment.

BIG, BEAUTIFUL VOICES FILL THE AIR

Anything Goes-EvelynReno (1344x1680)

Kevin Pariseau (as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) and Stacia Fernandez (as Reno Sweeney).

As Reno Sweeney, Stacia Fernandez is given a rainbow of glittery costumes to wear, highlighted with a sequin number that shines as brightly as her powerful belter voice in the famous showpiece, “Blow, Gabriel Blow.” Her singing throughout is a delight. The same goes for the impressive vocal chops of male lead Zach Trimmer (Billy), who shows impressive range into the high registers; and the beautifully lyrical singing of Jackie Raye (Hope) and Mychal Phillips (Erma).

There also are standout performances from Kevin Pariseau (Lord Evelyn), who has a lot of fun, as does the audience, turning “The Gypsy in Me” into a very funny novelty number; Jon Peterson (Moonface Martin), whose voice reminded me of a cross between comedian Gilbert Gottfried and Nathan Lane’s Timon in “The Lion King”; Bob Walton, sporting a gravity-defying Einstein hairdo as a proud, near-sighted Yalie (Elisha Whitney); and suitably haughty Tina Johnson as a high-society dowager (Mrs. Harcourt).

Westchester Broadway Theatre (WBT) offers single-price tickets that include a full-course dinner and show, as well as show tickets that don’t include dinner.

Following Anything Goes at WBT, starting Sept. 13, is Yeston and Kopit’s Phantom, which the theater says has been its most popular show over the years. (It is not the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.)

The cast of Anything Goes.


Anything Goes-IrmaSailors2 (1680x1344)

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce The Blog, is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner agency.  He also owns APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley marketing agency. Follow him on Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook, Twitter & YouTube. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.


Anything Goes-IrmaSailors2 (1680x1344)

Mychal Phillips (as Erma) and The Sailors.

 


PRODUCTION CREDITS
Associate Choreographer Joseph Cullinane
Set Design Steve Loftus
Lighting Design Andrew Gmoser
Sound Design Mark Zuckerman
Costume Designer Keith Nielsen
Hair/Wig design Gerard Kelly
Technical Director Steve Loftus
Production Stage Manager Victor Lukas
Assistant Stage Manager Duane McDevitt
Properties by Grumpy Props
Lisa Tiso Associate Producer
HELPFUL INFO ABOUT WBT
Westchester Broadway Theatre
1 Broadway Plaza
Elmsford, NY 10526
Reservations  Call (914)-592-2222 -or- BroadwayTheatre.com
Group Reservations  Discounts for groups of 20 or more: call 592-2225.
Luxury Boxes  Call 592-8730 for private parties of 6 to 22. Enjoy dining and theatre in an elegant private box. Additional features include an expanded dinner menu, hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, private powder room, and Luxury Box reserved parking. Call for pricing details.
Ticket Prices Dinner & Show range between $56-$84 plus tax, depending on performances chosen. Beverage service & gratuities not included in ticket price. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. Also check our website for on-going special offers: BroadwayTheatre.com

Coming to WBT Mainstage
*Yeston & Kopit’s Phantom – September 13 – November 25, 2018 

A Christmas Carol – November 29 – December 23, 2018

*Phantom returns — December 27, 2018 – January 27, 2019

*Not the Andrew Lloyd Webber version

A (Burnt) Toast to Love & Marriage, On the Rocks

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Syndicated Stage Reviews in Print + Online
BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Penguin Rep Theatre Presents
CLEVER LITTLE LIES
A Play by Joe DiPietro
Directed by Thomas Caruso
Joe Brancato, Founding Artistic Director
Andrew Horn, Executive Director
Through Sunday, July 22
7 Crickettown Road
Stony Point, New York 10980
Order Tickets on Website

In its first few moments, sitcom-style comedy Clever Little Lies grabs audience attention right away, with one of the most revealing wardrobe changes you’ll ever see on stage. It is done modestly but just provocatively enough to elicit vocal appreciation from amused patrons.

The fast-paced play, starring Richard Kline of TV classic Three’s Company, and written by Tony-winner Joe DiPietro, is at Penguin Rep in Stony Point (Rockland County) through Sunday, July 22. (For tickets and information, call 845.786.2873 or visit PenguinRep.org.)

Billy (left, Jordan Sobel) has his work cut out dealing with (from l) wife Jane (Bridget Gabbe), mom Alice (Jana Robbins) and dad Bill, Sr. (Richard Kline) Photo by Chris Yacopino

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In Sam Shepard’s True West, These Brothers are Keepers

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Online + Print Syndicated Reviews
BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

The Ridgefield Theater Barn Presents
TRUE WEST
A Play by Sam Shepard
Directed by Erik Tonner
Production Manager, Stefanie Rosenberg
Assistant Producer, Monet Fleming
Friday, June 22 & Saturday, June 23, 2018
37 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, Connecticut 06877
Order Tickets on Website
Presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc.

Imagine a picnic. Now take it indoors. To a converted Connecticut barn. Add a black-box stage. Put on the stage a compelling show with ambitious production values. Add theater lovers. Mix vigorously. Voila! Yield one Ridgefield Theater Barn. Serves more than 70.

Differentiation is the soul of marketing, and the Theater Barn in Ridgefield has the above recipe all to itself, at least in my experience. It is one of the most unusual venues in which to enjoy live theater in the Hudson Valley.

The current production is Sam Shepard’s lean and mean look at sibling rivalry, True West, which ends its four-weekend run Saturday, June 23.

Brothers Lee (l, Anthony Barresi, Jr.) and Austin (Chris Luongo) catch up after several years apart. All photos by Paulette Layton. 

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‘Next to Normal’ Is Extra Special: A Phantasmagoric Pop Opera

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BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

The Armonk Players Present
NEXT TO NORMAL
Book + Lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Music by Tom Kitt
Directed by Christine DiTota
Musical Direction by Ricky Romano
Produced by Jeff Rocco + Rod Berro
Through June 9, 2018 (Thursday-Saturday)
Whippoorwill Theatre
19 Whippoorwill Road East
Armonk, New York 10504
Order Tickets on Website
Sponsored by Friends of the North Castle Public Library
Presented by special arrangement with Music Theatre International

Beyond Broadway, there are very few destinations closer to home where local theater-goers can get a great deal seeing a famous Broadway musical performed by top talent. It’s a very short list that begins near the end of the alphabet, with Westchester Broadway Theater in Elmsford and Yorktown Stage in Yorktown Heights.

After seeing Next to Normal at Whippoorwill Theater in North Castle Library, we now can go to the head of the alphabet by adding Armonk as another destination where Broadway-worthy musical productions can be seen for a song.

The cast of Next to Normal (from left) Jesse Herman as Henry, Anthony Malchar as Gabe, Adam Welsh as Dr. Madden, Christine Gavin as Diane, John Anthony Lopez as Dan, Jess Bulzacchelli as Natalie. Photo by Christine DiBuono

 

 

 

 

 

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Einstein Was Great, But Was He Good?

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BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Penguin Rep Theater Presents
RELATIVITY
By Mark St. Germain
Directed by Joe Brancato, Artistic Director, Penguin Rep
Andrew M. Horn, Executive Director, Penguin Rep
Through June 10, 2018 (Thursdays-Sundays)
7 Crickettown Road
Stony Point, New York 10980
845.786.2873
Order Tickets on Website

He is more myth than man, the Babe Ruth of brainiacs. Who doesn’t know the name Einstein? It’s as much a word as it is a name, a synonym for genius.

Apart from his celebrated scientific work, though, who was Albert Einstein the man? That’s a relative question, one that nimble playwright Mark St. Germain explores with wit, historical veracity and theatrical verve in his one-act play “Relativity.” It can (and should) be seen through June 10 at Penguin Rep, a professional theater of consistently high quality in Stony Point, Rockland County.

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The Return of Talented Mr. Ripley, Believe It or Not

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BY BRUCE APAR

When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act!

Hudson Stage Company Presents
New York Premiere of
Switzerland
By Joanna Murray-Smith
Directed by Dan Foster
Executive Produced by Denise Bessette & Olivia Sklar

Through May 5, 2018 (weekends)
Whippoorwill Hall Theatre at North Castle Library
Kent Place
Armonk, New York 10504
914.271.2811

Order Tickets on Website
or
Call 800.838.3006

The riveting drama Switzerland, now playing at Hudson Stage in Armonk through May 5, is a “two-hander.” That’s theater lingo for a play with two actors. If there seems to be more than two characters on stage in this novel idea for a drama, it’s a testament to actors Peggy J. Scott and Daniel Petzold, and to playwright Joanna Murray-Smith.

The trio brings to life a captivating conceit inspired by real-life crime writer Patricia Highsmith, who was quite a character in her own right. If her name isn’t instantly familiar, it’s likely two of her celebrated works are: The Talented Mr. Ripley was adapted into a Hollywood hit movie starring Matt Damon, and Strangers on a Train is an Alfred Hitchcock classic.

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Remember Decoration Day

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By Bruce Apar
When Bruce The Blog Listens, People Talk

You can tell to which generation someone belongs by whether she or he remembers when Memorial Day annually was held on May 30, regardless of what day of the week that date occurred.

In 1862, a Civil War general, John Logan, proposed that May 30 be designated a day of remembrance throughout the land.

It was 45 years ago (1971) that Memorial Day for the first time ceased being observed exclusively on May 30. It instead became part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, to be held on the last Monday of May, as enacted by Congress three years prior (1968).

It just so happens that this year’s Memorial Day 2016—next Monday—lands on the commemorative date of May 30. That calendar coincidence presents an opportunity to recall another bygone characteristic of “Memorial Day”—it used to be called Decoration Day, for reasons worth remembering.

National Cemeteries Created

The unprecedented number of fatalities in the Civil War—the cause of more deaths than any conflict in American annals—necessitated the creation of our first national cemeteries, according to History.com.

By the late 1860s, a ritual evolved in which the graves of the Civil War’s fallen were decorated by locals in towns across the country. The show of respect and gratitude paid homage to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country and fellow citizens.

Therein lies the primal sanctity of a communal remembrance whose profound meaning too easily is buried by the more mundane imperatives of our mechanized society. The singularity of Decoration Day falling on May 30 for the first 100 years has yielded to the cookie-cutter convenience of a generic three-day holiday weekend, which was created as a perk for federal employees.

Waterloo, N.Y. Is Memorial Day Official Birthplace

The upstate New York town of Waterloo first observed Decoration Day in 1866, and 100 years later it was declared by the federal government “the official birthplace of Memorial Day.” The reason it was so honored, as reported by History.com, is because Waterloo was among the first to hold “an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.”

The solemnity of that early American Memorial Day is muted in our day by the sound of retail sales trumpeting “Happy Memorial Day!” As oxymorons go, that one is hard to beat and even harder to justify when reading about the birth of the holiday.

I encourage any business to promote itself with thematic sales events, but perhaps in this case a more fitting declaration of our independence is “Salute Memorial Day!”

Let’s do whatever we can to keep it a secularly holy day; to remember warriors by decorating their burial places; to publicly thank neighbors and strangers who endured the ravages of war; to salute them all, as they parade along your main street and wave the flag of freedom we never for one second should take for granted.

On a personal note: Thank you, Dad (aka “Sarge” in WWII), for all that you gave your family and your country.  

Solders' Memorial Day-May 30

Memorial Day 2016 falls on May 30, just like it did for more than 100 years, until 1971, when a federal law moved it to Monday every year, regardless of the date.

Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar is Chief Content Officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a Google Partner Agency, where he is a partner with Pinpoint CEO and Google Adwords Certified Professional Bruce Mishkin. Apar is a weekly columnist for Halston Media newspapers and the PennySaver, and a writer for Westchester Magazine. Under the banner of APAR All-Media, he is a consultant for Hudson Valley events and organizations. Follow him as Bruce The Blog and Hudson Valley WXYZ on social media. Reach him at bapar@me.com or (914) 275-6887.