In 1934, thousands of American theatergoers found refuge from the Great Depression under the blissfully escapist spell of Cole Porter's Anything Goes. On December 6, 2012, Ephrata Performing Arts Center is uncorking that vintage elixir once more to chase away the hangover of the recent Great Recession.
Thanks to latter-day revisions to the script and expansions of the already-classic score, Broadway's 1934 gem now has a platinum-quality setting that captured the Best Musical Revival Tony in 1997 and again in 2011.
No wonder. With songs such as "I Get a Kick Out of You," "Easy to Love," "You're the Top," "It's De-Lovely," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," "All Through the Night" and the title tune, "Anything Goes" reigns as one of the most perennially popular musicals in the American theater canon.
The gleefully giddy plot finds Reno Sweeney, a reformed evangelist-turned naughty night-club star, setting sail aboard a luxury liner chock-full of colorful characters, including Billy Crocker, a young Wall Streeter; Elisha Whitney, Billy's nearsighted, lecherous boss; Hope Harcourt, a gold-digging socialite; the pompous Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.
Reno fancies Billy, who disguises himself as a sailor to avoid his boss and pursue Hope, whose ambitious mom has arranged her engagement to Lord Evelyn, who, in turn falls for Reno. Got that? The high seas hijinks get even saltier when it's discovered that there's a Most Wanted criminal aboard -- Moonface Martin, who is disguised as a priest, and secretly accompanied by his sexy moll, Erma, who has all the sailors at attention.
Liz Frank (Evita, Chicago, Tommy) heads the cast as Reno; with Sean Deffly as Billy; Valerie Schulz as Hope; Bob Checchia as Moonface Martin; Jessica Henry as Erma; Kathy Long as Mrs. Harcourt; Darren Wagner as Lord Evelyn; John Kleimo as Whitney; Irving Gonzalez as John/Ling; Bruce Weaver as the Captain; JP Welliver as the Purser; and Gene Ellis as Dobson. Lauren Adkins, Heidi Carletti, Meredith Stone and Sarah Wright are featured as Reno's backup Angels, the decidedly unangelic Charity, Virtue, Purity and Chastity.
Aldo Aranzulla, Adam Cooper, Ken Cowan, Adam Dienner, Jeremy Ebert, Kevin Kegerize, Jose Mangual, Caleb Seip, Austin Trynosky, and RoBert Woodcock form the able-bodied Male Ensemble. Carole Adkins, Wendy Caldwell, Karen Cooper, Trish Corcoran, Brittany Formica, Emma Laube, and Robin Payne power the Female Ensemble.
EPAC artistic director Edward R. Fernandez co-captains the musical voyage along with co-director/choreographer Irving Gonzalez. Cheryl Markle is musical director. Leslie Sullivan is stage manager. Beth Lewis is technical director. Set design is by Sheryl Liu. Lighting is by Jeff Cusano. Sound is by Chris Herb. Kate Willman is costumer. Alixe Ingoglia is prop mistress.
Anything Goes will be performed in the intimacy of the Sharadin Bigler Theatre stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 7-8; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 14-15; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, Dec. 19-20; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 21-22; with a 2 p.m. matinee, Saturday, Dec. 22, at which all unsold tickets are available on a Pay What You Will basis starting at 1:30 p.m. Tickets otherwise are $15-$27.50 on line at ephrataperformingartscenter.com or by calling (717) 733-7966.