`Anything Goes' on Bowie stage

Musical: The award-winning 2nd Star Productions tackles one of Cole Porter's most famous musicals.


Arundel Live

September 23, 2004|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Venturing a half-mile outside Anne Arundel County - about five minutes from Crofton - leads to Bowie Playhouse, hidden in the woods of Whitemarsh Park.

This functional theater boasts a large, high stage that accommodates rapid set changes, a full orchestra pit and comfortable seating for 150. Here, full-fledged productions are mounted by top-notch technicians to showcase first-rate, on-stage talent. The combination wins prestigious awards for 2nd Star Productions and Bowie Community Theatre - the two companies at Bowie Playhouse.

This summer, both companies won the coveted British Embassy Players-sponsored Ruby Griffith Award for work last season - Bowie's The Heiress and 2nd Star's Mame.

"Our June production of Mame won over at least 40 entries, most of them from the Washington area, to win Outstanding Achievement in a Musical, and it's gratifying to have others agree that our work merits praise," said 2nd Star co-founder Jane B. Wingard.

Having directed the winning Mame, Wingard now turns her directing skills to a classic musical: Cole Porter's Anything Goes, opening 2nd Star's new season tomorrow. Wingard said she believes that theater should entertain with uplifting shows featuring toe-tapping scores, like Anything Goes.

Now considered Porter's best, Anything Goes arrived in 1934 when Broadway was filled with great composers, and plots existed only to amuse, not challenge, the audience. Porter set such high musical standards in Anything Goes that all of his later shows were measured against it. Along with the title song, the score includes "You're the Top," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "It's De-Lovely," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and "All Through the Night." Porter's score proved a fantastic gift to star Ethel Merman, who afterward was forever identified with three of the show's songs.

The zany story takes place aboard the cruise ship S.S. American, which is filled with colorful passengers including a couple of escaped convicts, members of the clergy, debutantes, Wall Street moguls, a nobleman and nightclub singer-turned-evangelist Reno Sweeney, who travels with her own set of angels. Reno's chum Billy Crocker is a stowaway Wall Street executive in love with debutante Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to royal Sir Evelyn.

The fun increases when passengers discover that Public Enemy No. 1 is on board with Moonface Martin - Public Enemy No. 13, masquerading as a clergyman. Hijinks include trading barbs and swapping identities to find romance with new partners in unexpected places.

Director Wingard is assisted in this production by choreographer Vicki Smith and by 2nd Star veteran music director Donald K. Smith, who will be in the orchestra pit with an eight-piece combo.

Andrea L. Elward - described by director Wingard as "made to sing Cole Porter's music" - is cast in the leading role of Reno Sweeney. Vince Musgrave plays Billy, and newcomer Jill Vohr is cast as the debutante Hope.

Others include Michael Rease playing Sir Evelyn, Walter League as Moonface Martin, Dianna Wolf as Bonnie, Martin Hayes as Elisha Whitney and Heidi Toll as Mrs. Harcourt.

Anything Goes runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. from tomorrow to Oct. 31.

Rounding out 2nd Star's season will be Room Service (the Marx Brothers favorite) from Feb. 25 to March 19 and Damn Yankees from May 20 to June 25. Season tickets are $42 for adults and $33 for seniors over age 55 and full-time students. Seats are $16, and $13 for seniors and students. Reservations: 410-757-5700..

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