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“Anything Goes” brings shipboard fun to Radford University
by Jennifer Juul
An adventurous cast and crew cruises into spring in Radford University’s upcoming musical comedy, “Anything Goes.” A longtime favorite of theatregoers, it carries its audience from the stage boards to the shipboards beginning March 29 in the Pridemore Playhouse.
Combining outrageous comedy with fantastic dancing and Cole Porter’s dazzling 1930s music, “Anything Goes” is the classic story of Boy-Meets-Girl-before-everything-goes-hilariously-wrong. It is up to Billy Crocker and his sexy nightclub songstress-friend, Reno Sweeney, to make it right again. Hijinks ensue on a transatlantic trip filled with a load of lively passengers.
The audience is sure to recognize that magic Cole Porter sound in such well-known tunes as “You’re the Top,” “Friendship,” “I Get a Kick out of You,” and of course, the title song. The Department of Music provides the orchestra under the music direction of guest artist Emily Blankenship-Tucker.
“Cole Porter's tunes are catchy, timeless, and as much fun now as they were in 1934,” Blankenship-Tucker observes. “I think it's refreshing for modern performers to shed their skin a bit as they dive into a real classic and bring it to life.”
Blankenship-Tucker is a well-known artist in this part of the country, having toured extensively with her band “After Jack.” A versatile musician, she was an audience favorite at the Blue Ridge Dinner Theatre in Ferrum, where she music-directed and performed for many years. Also a music educator, Blankenship-Tucker teaches and provides coaching to musicians, singers, and actors of all ages.
With Blankenship-Tucker in the orchestra pit, choreographer Amy VanKirk is crafting a joyful, entertaining night of dance that, in her words, “embraces the exciting rhythms and traditions of the 1930s while adding a modern twist.” An assistant professor in the Department of Dance, VanKirk brings the stylistic expertise in tap and jazz essential in producing a musical like “Anything Goes.”
Completing the artistic triangle is Professor Wesley Young, director and head of the performance area in the Department of Theatre and Cinema. In addition to providing the artistic leadership, Young’s been busy shaping the hilarious situations that happen on board.
“This play reminds me of any number of zany comedies wherein caper after caper, each more ridiculous than the one before, makes you tense wondering how the characters will ever work their ways out of the ‘fine mess’ into which they’ve gotten themselves,” he notes. “All the while you are laughing!”
The Department of Theatre and Cinema brings various artists together every other year for a fully produced musical. Faculty and student designers Jimmy Ray Ward, Morgan Hardy, Amanda Craig, Addie Pawlick, and Yaritza Pacheco-Lopez are working hard alongside Young, VanKirk, and Blankenship-Tucker to create the S.S. American onstage. The capable scene shop is well-equipped to meet the challenge, which includes a revolving floor.
The audience is in for a treat with the special appearances of Dick and Kathleen Harshberger as Elisha Whitney and Evangeline Harcourt. The Harshbergers bring a wealth of experience to the team, along with close ties to the College of Visual and Performing Arts and years of leadership in the Arts Society of Radford University. Sarah Coleman, Grace Smiley, Drew Callahan, and Mac McMullen lead the talented cast of student actors, singers, and dancers.
The College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Office of Advancement will celebrate opening night at 5:30 p.m. on March 29 with a “Curtain Up!” reception, a buffet, and a peek behind-the-scenes. For reservations, or to participate in future arts festivities, please contact Jennifer White in the Office of Advancement at 540-831-5407.
Performances of “Anything Goes” are March 29, March 31 through April 2 at 7:30 p.m. and April 3 at 2 p.m.. The Sunday matinee will feature ASL interpreters. Patrons preferring ASL interpretation Sunday are encouraged to call the box office for seat selections. Tickets are available online at rutheatretickets.universitytickets.com. For more information or to reserve tickets in person, call 540-831-5289.