“Anything Goes,” the 1930s musical about an eclectic group of people aboard a boat and chock-full of schemes, romance and humor, gets new life in La Jolla High School’s production, March 20-26.
“What’s special about this show is that it’s really iconic,” said La Jolla High School senior Emma Wineman, who plays Evangelist-turned-nightclub-singer Reno Sweeney. “It’s not ‘Wicked’ or something kids in our generation are really familiar with, but it’s a show that spans generations. Plus, it has songs that people know, but don’t necessarily know where they are from.”
Fab diva Reno Sweeney is the glue that connects several characters, Wineman said, and has been portrayed by Broadway legends like Patti LuPone. “She’s friends with this person and in love with that person, who’s in love with another person,” she said. As the story goes, a random collection of passengers board the S.S. American on holiday, find themselves in a tangled web of love-at-first-sight, villainous plots, unrequited love and false identities (courtesy of several costume changes and disguises). A couple of FBI agents are thrown in the mix. The production, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, made its Broadway debut in 1934 and has had several revivals since.
“It’s really fast-paced,” said senior Noah Wilson, who plays Public Enemy No. 13, Moonface Martin. “It’s a farce and a musical, and I love the tunes and the clever humor that comes from the play on words.”
Despite the fact that only a handful of students had ever heard of the show, let alone seen it, enthusiasm was high from the get-go to be a part of it. Drama Department Director Marjorie Treger said about 60 students auditioned, with 35 making it to the cast (another 15 are crewmembers and more than 50 are involved in making the set). “There is something for everyone in the show and it’s OK for the whole family. It’s fun and big,” she said, adding that there are more than 200 costumes featured.
Nathan Wetter, who plays Billy Crocker, wears a number of them, as he must disguise himself throughout the story. “He goes aboard to give his boss something, but falls in love with someone on the ship. He uses disguises and costumes in his ploy — with the help of others — to win her heart, and remains inconspicuous as he avoids being noticed by his boss,” Wetter said.
Joking that “every musical stereotype” is represented in this production, senior Vivian Vu, who plays an FBI agent, said the show uses everything from campy punchlines to comedic songs and occasional moments of drama to flesh out the story.
Wilson said he particularly enjoys that while his character is a gangster, he’s not a very good one, and his brutish blunders are inadvertently adorable. “He’s supposed to be threatening and he says threatening things, but he’s just a big softy,” Wilson said. “At one point, I threaten to kill Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and he just laughs and says, ‘Oh Moonface.’ ”
Senior Tanner Perry, who plays the British Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, said that could be because Moonface is not exactly intimidating or because his character hasn’t quite grasped American mannerisms. “I’m a stuffy British Lord who is set to marry a debutante,” Perry said. “Because he finds everything American to be the coolest thing ever, he responds to small things, like the word ‘smooch,’ with ‘What?! What is this?! American things! Yes!’ I can treat him like a five-year-old and it’s fun to act that out. Plus, I get to wear a mustache.”
The rare dramatic character is Lord Evelyn Oakleigh’s fiancée, Hope Harcourt. “She has an overbearing mother who needs his money and doesn’t really have feelings for Lord Evelyn,” said actress Lauren Dorst. “So my character is tragic.” But is she also the subject of a stranger’s affection?
With fine actors and their commitment to character, Treger said, “I can promise a quality, enjoyable family production.”
■ IF YOU GO: “Anything Goes” showtimes are 7 p.m. Friday, March 20; 2 p.m. Saturday, March 21; 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 24 (pay-what-you-can performance); 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 25; and 7 p.m. Thursday, March 26 at La Jolla High School’s Parker Auditorium, 750 Nautilus St. Tickets: $9-$12 at the door. (858) 454-3081, ext. 4402.