Weston is a small town north of Kansas City known for antiques and a day trip get away from KC. It’s a pre-Civil War town with a quaint personality, a brewery, wineries and restaurants. They also have the Weston Community Theater which opened Anything Goes Wednesday night.
I believe community based theaters are extremely important, especially in a small town. It brings people together and allows them to do things they may not have an opportunity to normally do. It brings a sense of pride to the community. It’s done for the pure love of theater, not to make a profit. It taps the community for their creative involvement and their financial support. And Weston has been doing this since 2003.
This years production of Anything Goes stars a host of performers from previous years and some new talent as well. It was held in the West Platte High School auditorium, which is a great space for this light and classic musical comedy. Originally written in 1934, it has had a number of revivals. This one was the 1962 off-Broadway revival with some classic Cole Porter songs added to the original.
The primary story is a romantic comedy between Billy Croker (Austin Sang) and Hope Harcourt (Brooke May). Billy works for Wall Street Tycoon Elijah Whitney who hires and fires Billy on a regular basis. As Whitney sets off on a trans-Atlantic cruise Billy runs into Hope, with whom he had a 12 (or 9 if you ask Hope) hour taxi ride awhile back and fell hopelessly in love with. He has been unable to find her until now. However, there is a reason she hasn’t been found. She is engaged to the very British and rather repressed Lord Evelyn Oakley (well played by Jak Pennington), whose engagement is being heavily pressured by Mrs. Harcourt (Tracy McClung). After the chance meeting, Billy decides he must stay on the boat and win Hope back. This is where Billy’s wilder side comes in.
The secondary, and extremely funny, plot consists of the more nefarious characters in the show. The number one most wanted “Snake Eyes” Johnson is supposed to be on board. He is meeting with Moonface Martin (Colin Kinnick) and his sidekick Bonnie (Elise Bene). Kinnick and Bene are superb as the notorious and spontaneous gangsters. Kinnick’s comic timing shines brightly as each plot twist brings out his larcenous side. Bene matches his energy and is a delight to watch.
By a stroke of luck Billy helps Moonface, who is in a preachers disguise, avoid getting caught and kicked off the boat. Moonface befriends Billy, who accepts his nefarious ways without question. Billy and Moonface enlist Billy’s friend and well known night club singer Reno Sweeney (Natasha Gibbons) to have Sweeney set up Oakley in a compromising situation with her and use it to get Oakley to drop Hope or be disgraced. Sweeney is accompanied by her “Angels”, who are anything but angels. Chastity (Ann Eddy), Purity (Olivia Jane), Virtue (Katie Pugh) and Charity (McKenna Murdock) are all about seduction and playing to the lower common denominator of men. All the angels do a superb job of playing the sexuality while singing and dancing.
Rounding out the principal cast is Bishop Henry T. Dobson (Jakson Pennington), Ching (Andrew Ivy), Ling (Mitchell Pennington), Captain (Garrett Terpening) and the Purser (Chase Bridger).
The title song Anything Goes is about the degradation of societal morals and how in this “modern age” propriety is thrown out the window and anything is fair game morally speaking. It’s the clashing morality that drives both plots as Billy pretends to be “Snake Eyes” Johnson so he can stay on the boat. The crew gets a telegram that he is wanted and begins searching for him. When he is finally captured, it becomes clear that rather than despise him, the masses love this dangerous and notorious criminal. He gets upgraded to a suite and has the patrons and crew falling over themselves to mingle with him.
Billy embraces being a celebrity and impersonating “Snake Eyes”, but Hope is put off by his charade. She wants him to be true to himself. Thus the struggle for morality continues. Stang plays the charming boyish qualities well, but I would have liked to have seen more of the nefarious side come out as he embraces taking the low road to win back Hope. May does a very nice job with Hope as she balances the dutiful daughter with the spontaneous woman who wants to be with Billy.
The great thing about Weston Community theater is they use everyone. Sometimes with other companies, that can make for a very uneven production. But this cast all did a great job.
Director/Choreographer Guy Gardner plays to his casts strengths. Some of the larger dance numbers have been shortened as this cast doesn’t consist of trained dancers, but what he kept is well executed by all. They have energy and really sell the dance routines. He moves the cast well on stage, but it would have been nice to have had more action on stage while the principal scenes were going on. The ships seem very desolate at times for a luxury cruise liner.
Musical director Delano Mendoza brings out all the harmonies and the ensemble sounds wonderful. Bene’s Bonnie doesn’t have the polished voice of some, but she more than makes up for that with her energy and character. Stang has a lovely voice, but we sometimes lose him in the lower registers. Gibbons Reno has a nice voice, but we just don’t feel the emotions of her songs, and she has some wonderful music. In addition, the live orchestra sounds great and adds to the fun.
Overall, this is a strong production for a true community theater who uses everyone who auditions. It has some notable songs such as “Anything Goes” , “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “You’re the Top”. The love of theater in Weston is obvious by the support they receive and because of that tickets are FREE. So head up to Weston, do some shopping, check out one of their restaurants and make a day of it.
Anything Goes runs THIS WEEKEND ONLY. Friday and Saturday at 7 and Sunday at 2.
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