History will repeat itself on December 8 when the ever-popular musical comedy, Anything Goes: 50th Anniversary Production, takes the stage at the Jewish Family Theatre of the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Jewish Community Center.
The production was originally performed as part of the Vicki Drama Shapiro Workshop at the JCC (as it was called in 1972).
A classic Cole Porter musical, the show takes you on a farcical shipboard romp complete with flashy choreography and familiar songs like “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”
“We always do a big musical in December,” says artistic director Debra Clinton. “We will have live music played by a five-piece band.”
Clinton is thrilled to have Jerry Williams direct the production once again. Williams was the original director of the show at the center. “Before the pandemic, Jerry and I would talk about the theatre,” Clinton says. “He told me he directed the original product. I thought what fun it would be to do the show again.”
While all the cast and crew are new to the production, Clinton is planning to pull together an alumni reunion for one show in the run. “We have a strong cast of young dancers and singers who tap their hearts out,” she says. “I love the tap in the show. It’s something you don’t get in every musical.”
Clinton is looking forward to having actress Susan Sanford appear as a guest artist in the role of the colorful nightclub singer Reno Sweeney.
“I can’t wait to hear Susan sing those timeless songs,” she says.
Sanford was drawn to the musical for a number of reasons, including seeing the revival of the show in 1987 at Lincoln Center with Patti Lupone.
“I loved how unashamedly brassy she was. She didn’t feel the need to show her strength, she just walked into the room,” Sanford says about the character and Lupone on stage. “I had grown up watching late night PBS stations that showed the old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies, so I knew most of the songs, and of course, they are classic and timeless. The vaudevillian humor also really appealed to me. It’s just a fun role and a fun show.”
Sanford and Reno are alike in the sense that they both speak their minds and aren’t afraid to do so.
“Reno is unapologetically HER … she is confident in all things, until she meets Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, a British nobleman, then she doesn’t really know how to handle it,” Sanford says. “That’s another way in which we are alike. I’m so grateful that my husband did most of the pursuing in our early relationship, otherwise it might not have happened. Reno’s also a man’s woman – her best friends are men. I’m like that as well. I grew up with three older brothers, so I feel comfortable with men.”
The show is iconic, she adds. “It’s got some of the best songs in musical theatre history, and it’s just silly and fun and touching. It’s a great play to use to introduce younger viewers to theatre. I directed the show a few years ago at The Steward School where I teach, and the fact that I had 13- to 18-year olds walking around humming Cole Porter is one of my greatest achievements.”
This will be Sanford’s first show at the Weinstein JCC and with Clinton in charge, Sanford is confident. “She [Clinton] immediately made me feel comfortable working there. The atmosphere is so welcoming and relaxing,” Sanford says. “The cast is amazing and we truly enjoy being together, which I think translates onstage.”
Clinton finds that it’s challenging to take a musical from a certain time period and update and adapt it in a respectful way. “The focus is to be mindful. One of the functions of theatre is to be a getaway, an emotional break,” she says. “It’s a necessary reminder that there are beautiful things in life too, and there is joy to be found.”
Anything Goes is a perfect combination of music, dance and story, she adds. “It’s a feel-good show, and I think we all need a little feel-good now.”
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Anything Goes from Jewish Family Theatre of the Carole and Marcus Weinstein Jewish Community Center opens Thursday, December 8, and runs through December 18. For showtimes and tickets, go here.