Monday, September 2, 2019

It's delightful, it's de-lovely, it's 'Anything Goes' at Hillbarn

Jessica Maxey as Erma and the four sailors dance in "Buddie, Beware."
Hillbarn Theatre is staging a rousing “Anything Goes,” the evergreen musical with songs by Cole Porter.

Director Lee Ann Payne outdoes herself by also choreographing the show’s often spectacular choreography ranging from tap to ballet.

What really brings down the house is the title song. It features Caitlin McGinty as Reno Sweeney, the role made famous by Ethel Merman, along with the entire company to end Act 1.

Caitlin McGinty as Reno Sweeney, with her Angels, wears the second of several costumes in "Blow, Gabriel, Blow."
With her assured stage presence, McGinty also is a principal beneficiary of Yichuan Sharon Peng’s costumes, especially in “Blow, Gabriel, Blow,” when she appears in a series of outfits, each more spectacular than the last.

Other women in the show have several costumes changes, too, courtesy of Peng, who also does the hair and makeup.

In the new book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, the story is lots of fun. It’s mostly set on a luxury ocean liner heading from New York City to England in 1934.

Dan Demers' Elisha J. Whitney, with Barbara Heninger as Evangeline Harcourt, is a die-hard Yale fan.
Among the passengers is the blustery Elisha J. Whitney (Hillbarn artistic director Dan Demers), a Wall Street banker and inveterate fan of his alma mater, Yale University. Before leaving, he orders his assistant, Billy Crocker (Nathaniel Rothrock), who’s staying behind, to unload all of his shares of a company that’s about to tank.

But Billy has his mind on another passenger, Hope Harcourt (Melissa Momboisse), whom he loves.

But she’s engaged to an oblivious but well-meaning, rich Englishman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Michael Rhone). Among his quirks is trying to understand American idioms, but he gets them wrong, saying, for example, “step in it,” instead of “step on it.”

Others on the voyage include gangster Moonface Martin (Christopher Reber), Public Enemy No. 13, along with his gal pal Erma (Jessica Maxey).

Reno is accompanied by her four Angels, who often are paired with four sailors.

Billy manages to stow away, but he’s mistaken for another gangster and spends much of his time evading detection via a series of disguises.

Of course everything turns out for the best with Hope paired with Billy, Evelyn with Reno, and Elisha with Hope’s mother, Evangeline Harcourt (Barbara Heninger).

In addition to the costumes and dancing, the show has some great songs, well sung by everyone accompanied by recorded music.

Those songs put the various characters in the spotlight, with Reno and Billy featured in “You’re the Top,” Reno and Moonface in “Friendship,” Hope and Billy in “Easy to Love” and several more.

The talented Maxey as Erma shines in “Buddie, Beware,” accompanied by the sailors.

Besides Payne, Peng and the entire cast, those responsible for the success of this show include music director Ben Belew, scenic designer Kuo-Hao Lo, lighting designer Pamila Z. Gray and sound designer Brandie Larkin.

Running about two and a half hours with one intermission, “Anything Goes” will continue through Sept. 15 at Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Foster City.

For tickets and information, call (650) 349-6411 or visit

Photos by Mark and Tracy Photography