Madcap nostalgia abounds in Cole Porter’s timeless ‘Anything Goes’ at the Palace Theatre

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From left, Marc Willis, Cathy McKay and Vincent DiPeri, ready to set sail with “Anything Goes” at the Palace Theatre

MANCHESTER , NH – All aboard for a Palace Theatre first – its inaugural staging of the popular 1930s musical Anything Goes, which opens Friday night for a three-week engagement, with 16 performances over four weekends, through Nov. 11.

Somehow, there is a musical production that Palace Artistic Director Carl Rijotte hasn’t yet produced, and this is one of the few, making the experience for actors and crew all the more magical, says Vincent DiPeri, playing the role of Moonface Martin, a stowaway gangster and Public Enemy No. 13.

“It’s unusual – especially for Carl – to be approaching a show with no preconceived notions of how he’s done it before. It was a real surprise to hear that,” says DiPeri. “It’s fresh for everyone.”

He says he’s approaching his portrayal of Moonface Martin with what he calls a warm heart.

“Moonface tries his hardest to be intimidating but deep down he’s not intimidating, and that’s his fatal flaw, for sure. One of the challenges I face with the role is that it’s usually played by an older actor, so I’m having a good time making him my own,” says DiPeri.

Part of that includes perfecting his gangster voice, which he describes as one part NYC thug, one part Bugs Bunny.

As musicals go, “Anything Goes” is often overlooked for all it offers – first staged in 1934 with a musical score by Cole Porter, the action all takes place on one set, a luxury liner sailing from New York to England. The joy of the show comes through the boisterous production numbers and slapstick, high-end comedic interplay between characters, says Marc Willis, playing the role of Elisha Whitney, an aimless filthy-rich Wall Street banker and widower.

“I respect Cole Porter as a lyricist and composer, but also for the subtle nuances in his lyrics – which could be interpreted as a little naughty, but at the same time maintaining a production that’s good for the entire family,” says Willis.

Reno’s Angels on the ship’s deck. Courtesy Photo

It’s a high-energy show with plenty of madcap antics, says Cathy McKay, who plays Evangeline Harcourt, a wealthy widow and mother of lead character Hope Harcourt.

“My daughter is supposed to marry Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, but she is really in love with Billy Crocker, so there’s sort of this love triangle that begins the show, and then everyone finds their significant others in the courts of sailing across the ocean,” says McKay.

“In developing my character, I thought I was going to have to play this uppity widow, but I really wanted to bring some comedy to the role, and I’m having a blast doing that,” McKay says. “It’s because of the latitude you have working with Carl, he allows you to do your thing and then will come in with a little editing, and say why don’t you tweak it like this, and you’re like, ‘that’s perfect.’ So, the experience, from an actor’s point of view, has been wonderful.”

As for the complexities of the plot, DiPeri says it’s reminiscent of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” in that all the characters start off with the wrong partners.

“But through passage on the ship and the hijinks that ensue, people find out who they belong with in the end, which is right in line with the ‘feel good’ spirit of these musicals. They’re timeless, and they’ve been around so long that most people come away saying they didn’t realize all these great songs they know were from ‘Anything Goes,” DiPeri says.

The playlist includes “Let’s Misbehave,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “It’s De-Lovely,” and of course, “Anything Goes.”

Sailor’s with Reno Sweeney, an evangelist turned night club singer, on deck. Courtesy Photo

“To me, it’s a cool testament to Cole Porter and this show, which basically comes from Tin Pan Alley – Porter was the founding father of musical theater, and so all these songs preceded the show, which was built around the songs. In fact, you can find some of the songs from this production in other Cole Porter shows,” DiPeri says.

And speaking of the love boat atmosphere, the audience should know that Alexis Semevolos, who plays Hope Harcourt, and Jason Long, who plays Billy Crocker, lead characters who eventually find their way to one another as love interests in the show, are engaged to be married in real life.

Without fail, audience members can expect full-on wow-factor musical numbers that are the staple of Palace productions. However, it’s the throwback quality of this particular show that provides even more pizzazz than usual, says McKay.

“Let me tell you, the tap routine in this show? Phenomenal!,” says McKay.

Willis says not only will the dancing blow the audience away, but they will be transported back to a place and time where the old “forget your troubles, come on, get happy” vibe was the cure for whatever ailed society during the rocky post-Depression years.

“It’s the spectacle of it – and it’s not that there are a lot of lavish sets; the set is a boat, and that never changes. So you come in expecting to be wowed by the stage set, and you’ll end up being wowed by the humor, the songs, the production numbers – all these amazing other aspects that bring this story to life,” says Willis. “It’s epic. The curtain goes up and there’s a full ship on stage, which will garner a few gasps, but then the show will carry you away.”

Click logo to go to the Palace Theatre ticket page.


Friday October 20, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Saturday October 21, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Saturday October 21, 2017 2 p.m.
Sunday October 22, 2017 2 p.m.
Friday October 27, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Saturday October 28, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Saturday October 28, 2017 2 p.m.
Sunday October 29, 2017 2 p.m.
Friday November 3, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Saturday November 4, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Saturday November 4, 2017 2 p.m.
Sunday November 5, 2017 2 p.m.
Thursday November 9, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Friday November 10, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Saturday November 11, 2017 7:30 p.m.
Saturday November 11, 2017 2 p.m.

“Anything Goes” at the Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., in Manchester, will be showing Oct. 20-Nov. 11. Tickets are $25 for children ages 6-12, and $39-$46 for adults. Reserve your seat now by clicking here.

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Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!