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

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Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Beyond Broadway
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

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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.


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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.


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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

Patsy Cline & #1 Fan, Together Again

Cline, Seger
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Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
BY BRUCE APAR
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act


Westchester Broadway Theatre
Presents
ALWAYS… PATSY CLINE
Created and Originally Directed by Ted Swindley (
based on a true story)
Directed by Amiee Turner
Musical Direction by Ken Lundie
Through February 28, 2016
Tickets > www.BroadwayTheatre.com


WBT Patsy Cline program

Cover of the program given to each patron at Westchester Broadway Theatre

One of my wife Elyse’s favorite pieces of music is “Crazy” (maybe because in part it reminds her of me). That beautiful song also serves as a timeless reminder of an extraordinary voice that was stilled at the tragically tender age of 30.

Written by country music maker Willie Nelson, “Crazy” is the signature recording of Miss Patsy Cline, owner of a quintessentially clarion country sound that crossed over to the pop charts in the 1960s, and continues to thrill listeners with its heavenly tonality.

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The Bodacious Bobcat Band is part of the cast on stage for the duration of the show as it backs up Erin McCracken as Patsy Cline. Photo by John Vecchiolla

The ardor and admiration that defines Patsy Cline’s legion of fans was on full display at the opening of Westchester Broadway Theater’s current dinner-theater production, “Always… Patsy Cline.” You can see it through Feb. 28 (ticket info: (914)-592-2222; BroadwayTheatre.com).

IMPROBABLE FRIENDSHIP

The jukebox musical is built around more than 25 of her trademark tunes, including “Walkin’ after Midnight,” “Sweet Dreams,” and “I Fall to Pieces.” Helping to propel the hit parade — which also includes standards like “Stupid Cupid,” “You Belong to Me,” “True Love,” and “Shake, Rattle & Roll” — is a lightly-played storyline about the singer’s improbable friendship with a Houston fan, Louise Seger.

The two crossed paths in a honky-tonk one night when Ms. Seger came to see her idol perform. Their warm friendship extended to chatting over coffee in the fan’s home. They remained avid pen pals from 1961 until Patsy perished in an airplane accident in March 1963.

Patsy Opry

When Louise Seger first heard Patsy Cline on the radio, she was star-struck by the singer’s incomparable voice. Photo by John Vecchiolla

As familiar as the Cline catalog is to her erstwhile admirers, it’s a revelation to hear it recreated by the larger-than-life talent of Erin McCracken, who comes crazy close to sounding like the one-and-only original. 

CLASSIC TROUPERS

Close by her side throughout is the thoroughly engaging comic relief and storytelling antics of Susann Fletcher as Louise Seger. These ladies are classic show biz troupers, backed on stage by the high-energy Bodacious Bobcat Band, comprised of piano (Ken Lundie), steel guitar and fiddle (Guy Fischetti), bass (Geoff Marrow), and drums (Ken Ross).

The three-sided dinner-theater stage nicely conveys the down-home ambience and period feel of a Texas bar, with a jukebox and the band upstage, while downstage is a dinette set for the homey kaffee klatsches between the women. One of my favorite set design choices is a sign that reads “Houston Colt .45s,” the city’s national league baseball club that started in 1962, which three years later was renamed Houston Astros. 

This joyful and touching show starts, Grand Ole Opry-style, with a rollicking rockabilly number, “Honky Tonk Merry Go Round,” and rises to a rousing finish with the traditional barn-burner, “Bill Bailey.” Along the way, along with the tasty meals served at WBT, we’re treated to a feast of song and patter that’s free-wheeling and fast-moving.

POST SCRIPT

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Singing star Patsy Cline and Number 1 fan Louise Seger maintained an avid pen pal relationship until Miss Cline’s tragic death in an airplane crash in 1963. Photo by John Vecchiolla

Louise Seger and yours truly are kinda kindred spirits, if several times removed.

More than 35 years ago, rock star Peter Gabriel — he of British group Genesis before setting out on a hugely successful solo career — somehow ended up sitting in my Manhattan living room. He had called me at my office, out of the blue, to ask if he could pick my brain about the new thing called “Video” because he saw me listed as editor of a magazine of the same name.

Alas, unlike the Cline-Seger relationship, I never heard from my pal Pete again. I guess you could say this Gabriel, even though he’s not a trumpet player, blew me off.

Given the estimable success that has resulted from immortalizing the Patsy-Louise connection, it’s astonishing that nobody has been inspired to cash in on the momentous coming together of Peter and Bruce. That’s somebody’s loss (just don’t ask me whose), for I have to believe that buried somewhere in our historic meeting — a dozen stories above the big-city din of Second Avenue and 23rd Street — is the genesis of one sledgehammer of a Broadway blockbuster.

 


Erin McCracken, Bruce Apar, Susann Fletcher

Bruce “The Blog” Apar congratulates stars Erin McCracken (right, Patsy Cline) and Susann Fletcher (Louise Seger) after the press night performance. Photo by Chris Jamison

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.


 

 

 


PRODUCTION CREDITS
Set Design, Steve Loftus
Lighting Design, Andrew Gmoser
Sound Design, Jonathan Hatton and Mark Zuckerman
Costume Coordination, Heidi Giarlo
Hair/wig design, Gerard Kelly
Technical Director, Steve Loftus
Production Stage Manager,Victor Lukas
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
Man Of La Mancha– March 3
May 1
Happy Days – May 5
July 17
Million Dollar Quartet –July 21
Sept 11
Saturday Night Fever – Sept 15
Nov 27

Whatever Happened to Tiny Tim & Scrooge?

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Bruce caricatureBruce the Blog Reviews Theater
BY BRUCE APAR
When Bruce The Blog Watches… People Act


Westchester Broadway Theatre
Presents
Tim and Scrooge: A Carol for a Later Christmas
Music by Neil Berg
Book and Lyrics by Nick Meglin
Directed by
Nick Corley
Musical Direction by Patrick Hoagland
Through Dec. 27, 2015
Tickets > www.BroadwayTheatre.com

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(Front) Marissa McGowan (as Allison) & Justin Scott Brown (as Tim). (Back, from left) George Lee Andrews (as Scrooge) & Kevin Ligon (as Marley) Photo by John Vecchiolla

Last we left Ebenezer Scrooge — best known for popularizing “Bah! Humbug!” as the anthem of cynics everywhere — the miserly moneylender had a change of heart, warming to the spirit of Christmas, and actually acting charitable toward Bob Cratchit and family, including Tiny Tim.

In the clever and entertaining musical Tim and Scrooge, at Westchester Broadway Theater through Dec. 27, we catch up to both of them a dozen years after Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” ends. 

THE SAGA CONTINUES

As the synopsis goes, “Scrooge (Gerge Lee Andrews) has died a changed man and lovingly bequeathed the Scrooge & Marley Counting house to Tim Cratchit (Justin Scott Brown). Tim, while away at university, has fallen in love with a beautiful orphan girl named Allison” (Marissa McGowan).

About to turn 21, Tim on that day will take ownership of the Counting House. But he has a more noble profession in his heart: teaching.

“I find it no coincidence,” says Tim, “that the word numbers begins with numb.”

Idealist that he is, the no-longer-tiny Tim transfers the business to a couple of shady characters. That triggers confrontations that threaten to turn into a calamity. Scrooge wants to help Tim, but his dead partner Jacob Marley hovers to warn Ebenezer that he can interact with the living, but cannot intervene to change their actions.

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(From left) Justin Scott Brown (as Tim) & George Lee Andrews (as Scrooge). Photo by John Vecchiolla

A CLASSIC STORY CASTS ITS SPELL

This is a sweet, simple production — the stage remains spare with minimal props to shine deserved emphasis on the story, characters and tastefully-staged musical numbers by choreographer Jennifer Paulson Lee and director Nick Corley.

As soon as Scrooge opens the show, he gets into his archetypal spirit with a song titled “Humbug!” Speaking of spirit, he soon is joined by the ghost of Marley. At various points, the pair of apparitions inhabit “A Celestial Environment” that is signified by smoke wafting across the stage.

We are cued that Scrooge now is a good guy by the resplendent all-white outfit he wears. Marley is in white save for a black vest festooned in chains.

The story, by Nick Meglin, who also wrote the lyrics for Neil Berg’s music, is lively, witty and smartly crafted.

HEAVENLY VOICES

By turns lovely and forceful, the songs are done full justice by the heavenly voices throughout the cast, under the musical direction of Patrick Hoagland. WBT productions are know for their showcasing of outstanding vocal chords, which is to say, you won’t find better singing north of Broadway than at Westchester Broadway Theater.

Justin Scott Brown and George Lee Andrews make commanding presences who work well together and lead a uniformly talented ensemble of energetic performers.

Needless to say, all ends well, with the shady duo of Harold Hall (Fred Inkley) & Henry Hastings (Daniel Marcus)  coming to realize, “there’s earning in learning” and talk of backing “Ebenezer Scrooge School of Business and Academic Education.”

Come to think of it, that’s not such a Bah!d idea.

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The cast of Tim & Scrooge. Photo by John Vecchiolla


Reservations:  Call (914)-592-2222. Also at:  www.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. Additional cost, call for details.
Show Times:
Wednesday, Thursday & some Friday Matinees: Lunch: 11:30 am & Show 1 pm. Thursday, Friday, & Saturday Evenings: Dinner: 6:30 pm & Show: 8 pm.
Sunday Matinees: Lunch: 12 pm & Show: 1:30 pm
Sunday Evenings: Dinner: 5:30 pm & Show: 7 pm.
Ticket Prices Dinner & Show range between $56 and $84 (plus tax) depending on the performances chosen. Beverage Service & Gratuities are not included in the ticket price. Discounts are available for children, students, and senior citizens at selected performances. 

WBT Mainstage
Showboat returns Dec. 30
Jan. 31, 2016


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@pinpointmarketingdesign.com or (914) 275-6887.