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Behind The Scenes: ‘Anything Goes’

by Austin Doby

With a little over a week until the show’s opening night on Feb. 23, the Department of Theatre and Dance is working long and hard in preparation for this semester’s spring musical production of “Anything Goes.”

Set aboard an American celebrity cruise liner, Billy Crocker, played by Maverick Hiu, is a young Wall Street broker and high seas stowaway. He must win back the heart of the beautiful and wealthy Hope Harcourt, played by Megan Hasse, before she is to be wed. All the while, he is relentlessly pursued by the ship’s captain and crew.

In this witty and romantic quest for true love, Crocker is joined by a unique cast of characters, including the extravagantly British Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, played by Ethan Lynch, Moonface Martin, played by Matt Hoffman and the ex-evangelical temptress Reno Sweeney, played by Alexa Racioppi. In this extraordinary tale of love, lust and scandal, “anything goes.”

It features famous songs of the 1930s such as, “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” “Anything Goes” is a comically raunchy musical that embodies the very heart, soul, blood and tears of old Broadway. With a lineup of several hilarious and beautifully orchestrated pieces composed by Cole Porter, viewers will be listening to its soundtrack “All Through the Night.”

Director of “Anything Goes” and musical theater coordinator Clay C. James has directed roughly 16 shows in the 12 years he has worked at Montclair State. James, who has previously performed in and directed “Anything Goes” in the past, is now back at it again with a whole new cast.

“The show is a great challenge for student performers,” James said. “No one epitomized the music of the 1930s like Cole Porter. It’s a great show for families, it’s a great show for students… It’s just a fun, lighthearted show. Students need to get their tickets fast.”

Alexa Racioppi, playing Reno Sweeney No. 2

Alexa Racioppi, playing Reno Sweeney
Austin Doby | The Montclarion

In addition to teaching tap at Montclair State, Patrice Dlugos is also the show’s choreographer.

“We have a very talented and professional cast,” Dlugos said. “This is a fast-paced and challenging show with demanding choreography.”

She went on to describe the inner workings and themes behind “Anything Goes.”

“’Anything Goes’ is a traditional jazz and tap-heavy show that relies on its dramatically stylized elements,” Dlugos said. “It’s a very vibrant and jazzy show. You will find the dialogue, characters and music of ‘Anything Goes’ to be surprisingly refreshing and entertaining.”

The cast and production team have been strenuously researching, blocking and rehearsing over the past semester in preparation for such a difficult show.

Alexa Racioppi, a fifth year student studying dance performance and musical theater, is costarring in “Anything Goes” as Reno Sweeney.

According to Racioppi, Sweeney is “the epitome of a strong, independent woman who still wants love.”

“As strong as Reno is on the outside, she is super sensitive on the inside,” Racioppi said. “She really cares about her friends, and you can see that in her relationship with [Moonface Martin], in her relationship with Bill, and even in those little moments with Hope. She just really cares about other people.”

Sweeney has been portrayed by so many incredible women, including Ethel Merman, Patti Lupone, Elaine Paige and Sutton Foster and Racioppi is taking a little bit of everybody and also a little bit of herself into her performance.

“For me, I am a little more understated in my body language, and very expressive in my vocal language,” Racioppi said.

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Maverick Hiu and Megan Hasse star as Billy Crocker and Hope Harcourt in “Anything Goes.” Austin Doby | The Montclarion

Racioppi went on to say that she hopes that her unique take on the role will give the character of Reno Sweeney a whole new perspective and flare.

Montclair State’s production of “Anything Goes” will be running from Feb. 23 until March 2. Tickets can be purchased online at the Peak Performances website or the box office at the Alexander Kasser Theater.

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