The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Anything Goes
Organization Rocklin Community Theatre
Date(s) of show July 15-31, 2016
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review Anything Goes is Rocklin Community Theatre's annual production that features high school-age actors. Last summer they did Nice Work If You Can Get It, and it blew me away, especially the performances of Bronson Vanderjack, Emily Botnen and Carson Sloan. High schoolers have full lives and are constantly pursuing new experiences, and then they graduate and move on. So imagine my surprise to see these same fine actors and singers in this show. The show is double-cast and I saw the Porter Cast, so I consider it a stroke of luck to have seen them all on stage together.

Actually, it's probably not a matter of chance that these performers returned to a summer Rocklin Community Theatre production. The young director of this show is Madison Bales, and I learned that she cast last year's show by scouting local high school productions and recruiting the people she knew would work for her show. This year, I bet she did the same because so many of the other actors I saw were also wonderfully talented. And casting is not Madison Bales' only strength. The staging of the show the little touches, usually for comic effect were so abundant that I have to believe it was the director's understanding of stagecraft and sense of fun that was behind most of them. No question about it: I never want to miss anything directed by Madison Bales.

But let's not minimize the extraordinary talent of the actors. Key to the success of the show was the voice of Reno Sweeney, played in the Porter cast by Haley Lipford. Reno is featured in one after another of Cole Porter's wonderful songs, and Lipford had the big voice and stage presence to make those songs soar. Another highlight of the show was the comic acting of Toby Dyas in the role of Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. To my mind, he played the self-conscious, naive, stiffly traditional Oakleigh to perfection, and his apparent ad libbing had me laughing constantly. Bronson Vanderjack as Billy Crocker showed his versatility as an actor as he took one different persona after another, always with comic effect, and then delivered a touching, serious song with Emily Botnen as Hope Harcourt in "All Through the Night." Although her acting was as good as I recalled from last year, I was surprised by the expressiveness and mature quality of Botnen's singing. Then there was Carson Sloan as "Public Enemy Number 13," Moonface Martin. His voice and characterization of the lovable gangster were consistently hilarious throughout. It fell to him to perform Cole Porter's worst song in the show, "Be Like the Bluebird." Backed by creative staging of the number, Sloan sang and acted it beautifully, turning it into one of the many highlights of this production. I have to add that Emily Masnica was a delight as the cute Bonnie, with her 1920s New York show girl accent, especially in her big number, "Let's Step Out." And Olivia Moffat over-acted perfectly for the bigger-than-life character of Mrs. Wadsworth Harcourt.

It's amazing when you consider the small size of the stage at the Finnish Temperance Hall, but the choreography was yet another highlight of this gem of a show. Choreographer Cassie March made each dance number exciting and interesting, especially "Anything Goes" and "Blow Gabriel, Blow," both of them high-energy show-stoppers. And though the energy came from all the players who filled the set, I have to give special credit to the six "Angels" who lit up the stage whenever they appeared.

The big numbers wouldn't have been nearly so big without the 13-piece orchestra led by Peter Kagstrom. Where can you find a local show with such depth of live music? The orchestra, positioned behind a screen at the right side of the hall, was professional in every sense of the word.

I have to add a word about the set and costumes. Rocklin Community Theatre has high standards for every aspect of their productions, and the set was complex enough to give the sense of a multi-deck cruise ship, and the costumes, especially of the women, were impressive and varied, giving a freshness to each scene except when they completely dazzled the audience, as they did when Reno and her Angels peeled off one outfit to reveal shimmering costumes for "Blow Gabriel, Blow."

As I write this, there are only 2 more weekends of Anything Goes, and believe me, it is a show that you don't want to miss. Cole Porter's familiar music is performed with style and quality, and there are great laughs from beginning to end. Beyond that, these young actors, singers and dancers bring an extraordinary energy to the production that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Chalk up another roaring success for Rocklin Community Theatre.

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