Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

Anything Goes
Porthouse Theatre
Review by Mark Horning

The Cast
Photo Courtesy of Porthouse Theatre
It is officially summer in Northeast Ohio. How do we know this? Is it the leafing of the trees and the filling in of the flower beds? Is it the hot sun beating on our backs relieving the aches and pains from our recently departed winter weather? Well, it is those and the fact that Porthouse Theatre/Kent State University is staging their first of three productions in their outdoor complex on the grounds of Blossom Music Center.

This kick off to their 50th Anniversary Season is the Cole Porter spectacular Anything Goes. The family friendly musical cuts through to each and every generation with such golden hits as "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You'd Be So Easy to Love," "You're the Top," "It's De-Lovely" and the rousing "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" as well as the title song.

Porthouse Theatre for many is a family picnic with an exceptional musical thrown in, and this production is no exception. Anything Goes first saw stage light back in 1934 and featured music and lyrics by Cole Porter with a book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse. Over the 84 years of its existence, the musical has had a variety of revisions—to the point where there now exists four separate approved versions of the show. For whatever reason, the score has been shifted, sliced up and rearranged, with songs reassigned to different characters and additional Cole Porter tunes added in. This Porthouse production is the version that was produced on Broadway by Lincoln Center Theater in 1987.

Lowly stock clerk Billy Crocker (Matthew Gittins) has fallen in love with heiress Hope Harcourt (Liz Woodard), who is sailing to England with her mother Evangeline Harcourt (Jess Tanner) as well as her betrothed Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Eric van Baars) for their wedding. Billy's boss Elisha (Eli) Whitney (Rohn Thomas) has ordered Billy to stay behind to close an important stock deal on which hinges the fate of the entire firm. Billy disobeys and becomes a stowaway on the luxury ocean liner.

Joining the madcap passenger list are Reno Sweeney (Sandra Emerick), who does an evangelist nightclub act and is Billy's former(?) girlfriend; Moonface Martin (Christopher Seiler), who is number 13 on the "Most Wanted List" and is traveling with his moll "girlfriend" Bonnie (Kelli-Ann Paterwic); Reno's dancing girls (The Angels: Felicity Jemo, Abby Morris, Kaetlyn Cassidy, Luna Cho, Falyn Mapel); two Chinese "reformed" gamblers Ching and Ling (Antonio Emerson Brown and Adam Graber); the ship's crew and officers and assorted passengers. Odd partnerships spring up as everyone falls in love, but not necessarily with their intended.

The tradition of Porthouse Theatre (and this has been going on for half a century) has been to present a combined cast of top notch Equity actors with advanced students from the Kent State University School of Theatre and Dance. Porthouse Artistic Director Terri Kent, who directs this show, does a fine job of combining the fast-paced singing, dancing, slapstick, comedy and mistaken identities. Mary Ann Black brings a 1930s flavor to the tap and jazz dancing numbers that literally stop the show in its tracks.

Notables in the cast include Matthew Gittins, who has a fine tenor voice and good comedic moves and expressions, as Billy. Christopher Seiler is perfect as Moonface Martin as he mugs his way merrily along. Liz Woodward as Hope Harcourt steals the stage with her beautiful solos and duets with Billy, and Sandra Emerick as Reno brings an extra helping of brass and wit, with all eyes and ears being on her when she enters.

Sometimes you go to the theater simply to have a good time. You will find yourself tapping your feet and humming along with well known standards as the Porthouse Theatre production of Anything Goes dances on a summer breeze. Arrive early and enjoy a nice picnic lunch on the spacious grounds prior to the show. This is musical theater geared for the entire family so bring the entire clan.

Porthouse Theatre's Anything Goes, through June 30, 2018, on the grounds of Blossom Music Center, 1145 W Steels Corners Rd, Cuyahoga Falls OH. Tickets may be purchased online by going to or by phone by calling 330-672-3884.

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