It’s all hands on deck for Drayton Entertainment’s latest production, Anything Goes, which hit the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse stage this week.
Debuting on Broadway in 1934, the nautical musical has been revived three times since then, in 1962, 1987, and 2011 and has won three Tony Awards.
Director and choreographer Michael Lichtefeld says the show promises to be a fun night out at the theatre for all ages.
“I think older people will appreciate it for the nostalgia, I think younger people will appreciate it for the funny. It’s a very funny piece and younger people probably don’t know the Cole Porter score. The lyrics are so clever and so witty that I think young people are going to discover it for the first time, which is exciting. It’s kind of great to expose younger people to old time music that they don’t particularly know,” Lichtefeld said.
The musical is based off Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse’s book Anything Goes, which was later revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse.
It follows the misadventures of an unlikely group all aboard an ocean liner from New York to London. Wall Street broker Billy Crocker is determined to win over Hope Harcourt, who’s engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Crocker enlists the help of Evangelist turned nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and a second-rate gangster Moonface Martin, who’s also known as Public Enemy #13, although he’d like to be Public Enemy #1.
Lichtefeld says the show has stood the test of time largely because of American composer and songwriter Cole Porter’s score.
“It’s Cole Porter at his finest. I mean every song in the show, practically, is a hit. You’ve got ‘It’s De-Lovely, ‘You’re the Top,’ ‘Friendship,’ ‘Anything Goes,’ ‘I Get A Kick Out of You,’ ‘You’d be So Easy to Love.’ It’s just chockfull of incredible lyrics and melodies. You don’t get that too often these days,” Lichtefeld said.
Jayme Armstrong leads the cast as Reno Sweeney and was most recently seen in Drayton’s Little Shop of Horrors, Chicago, The Music Man, and White Christmas.
“It’s a full Canadian cast and they’re phenomenal, led by the absolutely brilliant Jayme Armstrong. I think she’s going to knock everyone’s socks off. She’s brilliant, as is the entire cast. Patrick Cook, Sheldon Davis, they’re all amazing,” he said.
Patrick Cook plays Billy Crocker, while Sheldon Davis is Moonface Martin and Tim Funnell is Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.
Lichtefeld has choreographed the show four times before, but this will be his first time in the director’s chair for it. He says so far so good. And the set has some surprises in store.
“The crew at Drayton is phenomenal. They never say no to me. And even things when I go ‘oh yeah, they’re going to say no,’ they don’t say no. They understand that everything is for the good of the piece and to make it the best audience experience that they can have,” he said.
The show will also appeal to those with a love of dance. There’s everything from tango to the Charleston to tap dancing. And who doesn’t like tap dancing?
“The dance ensemble, they’re the best that Canada has to offer, and I’ve worked a lot up here. They’re phenomenal dancers in that they can do any style I throw at them, whether it’s blues, whether it’s jazz, whether it’s tap, whether it’s ballroom, whether it’s tango. Their dance vocabulary is so strong that it makes my job actually easier because I don’t have to edit where my mind is going choreographically because they can do whatever I want them to,” he said.
In a show that he describes as “pure escapism at its best,” Lichtefeld tells audiences that if they’re looking for a blast at the theatre and to leave humming every song, then this is the ticket.
“I think that if you know the show you’re going to love it because the production’s going to be gorgeous, the costumes are gorgeous and the set is gorgeous and the actors are phenomenal. If you don’t know the show you’re going to discover a gem that you may not have known even existed,” he said.
Anything Goes runs at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse from May 11 to May 29. Regular performance tickets are $44 for adults; and $26 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets for preview performances scheduled before the official opening and groups of 20 or more are $36.00. Tickets are available in person at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, online at www.stjacobscountryplayhouse.com or by calling the box office at (519) 747-7788 or toll free at 1-855-DRAYTON (372-9866).