Review: All Aboard! Anything Goes Sails into Silhouette Stages

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: Approx. 2 hours and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

People do crazy things for love, especially young people, even if it means crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a luxury cruise ship, without a ticket and luggage, and bunking with a wanted criminal. In Silhouette Stages latest production, Anything Goes, with Music & Lyrics by the legendary Cole Porter and an Original Book by P.D. Wodehouse & Guy Crouse, and a New Book by Timothy Crouse & John Weidman, we get a look at how that kind of story turns out. This production, the 1987 revival version, is Directed by Conni Ross with Music Direction by William Georg and Choreography by Tina Marie DeSimone.

(l-r) Triana McCorkle, Maddie Bohrer and Abby McDonough. Credit: Russell Wooldridge

Anything Goes, in a nutshell, takes place aboard the S.S. American and brash Reno Sweeny, famous nightclub singer and evangelist, is on her way to England. Billy Crocker, an old friend has stowed away because he wants to be near his love interest, Hope Harcourt, how happens to be engaged to a wealthy and elderly gentleman, Evelyn Oakleigh. Throw in a loveable Public Enemy #13, a case of mistaken identity, and a handful of showgirls called Angels, and you have a triste worthy of witty and brash songs of Cole Porter.

The setting is a character of its own and when one mentions Anything Goes, usually, the first thought is “That show that takes place on the ship.” Set Design by Alex Porter is admirable with the distinct levels that make this setting interesting but other than the levels, the set seemed a bit sparse. It could be all the whitewashed walls/flats with very little color but other than being a little boring in the aesthetics, the design is classic and well-built. This is a good showing for Porter and he and his team are to be commended for their efforts.

Taps, taps, taps! That’s another thing one thinks of if one is familiar with Anything Goes and taps we have! Choreography by Tina De Simone is high energy and engaging… for the big, popular numbers, namely “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” The other numbers seem to be afterthoughts such as poor Bonnie’s featured numbers, “Heaven Hop” and “Let’s Step Out.” The savior of those numbers are the vocals and brilliant presentation of Bonnie by Maddie Bohrer, but we’ll get more into that later in this review. Looking to the bright side, DeSimone’s work shines and is precise and outstanding in the aforementioned “Anything Goes” and “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” The energy is high and the ensemble is on point. DeSimone really gets these numbers and style and has created a fresh look that is a joy to watch.

(l-r) Miranda Snder, Abby McDonough, Robyn Bloom, Marcie Prince, Maggie Mellott and Lisa Rigsby. Credit: Russell Wooldridge

Vocally, this ensemble is phenomenal. With the help of Sound Design by Alex Porter, this ensemble is spot on and kudos must go to William Georg for his Music Direction. Many of these songs are well-known, so any flaws are easily noticeable, but, there weren’t many to speak of. The music is canned (recorded), but this cast is well rehearsed and they have this score down pat making for an enjoyable and toe-tapping experience.

This production is helmed by Director Conni Ross and she gives us a charming presentation of this beloved piece and her staging is smooth but it loses momentum at times which effects the comedic timing. Overall, Ross has done a splendid job with this production – you work with the material you got, so, she has given us a strong showing. The presentation isn’t necessarily fresh and innovative, but it keeps the more traditional, old-fashioned presentation in-tact, and that’s always a good thing. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, right? My only issues with Ross’ work is her curious casting choices. Now, in community theatre, you work, first and foremost (or are supposed to) with the folks who come out for auditions and may the best man/woman land the role. I get that. But this cast seemed quilted together. Age ranges seem to be all over the place and there are actors who look to be playing characters younger or older than they actually are which throws off the entire feel of the production, for me. Regardless, Ross has given us a pleasant show that makes for a wonderful evening of theatre.

Jim Gross and Todd Hochkeppel. Credit: Russell Wooldridge

Moving toward the performance aspect of this production, we have Jim Gross as Billy Crocker and Rebecca Hanauer as Hope Harcourt, the young lovebirds of this story. Gross seems to have a good grasp of this character, but I question his casting in this role. Again, he gets this character, knows his objectives, and follows staging nicely but… I didn’t buy it. His delivery of the material is good, if slightly scripted at times, and, occasionally, his comedic timing is a little off. Vocally, Gross can hold his own but he just doesn’t fully capture the energy and urgency the character requires. However, that being said, he’s comfortable in the role and gives a confident performance. Along the same vein, Hanauer seems a bit miscast, as well. She, too, understands her character well and goes through the motions, but I just didn’t buy it. Vocally, Hanauer has a beautiful soprano and performs her featured songs quite well, such as “De-Lovely” and “All Through the Night.” I think one of the main issues is the chemistry between Gross and Hanauer. It’s easy to see their great friends, but it would be a stretch to think they were anything more than that. In general, both give good performances and are consistent throughout the show.

Todd Hochkeppel, Ryan Geiger and Robyn Bloom. Credit: Russell Wooldridge

Though this is a musical comedy in which all characters have a certain comedic value, Ryan Geiger as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh and Todd Hochkeppel as Moonface Martin have got the comedy down pat. These two are a pleasure to watch and their portrayals of these characters is top notch. Geiger embodies the role Evelyn Oakleigh and pulls off the pompousness mixed with charm that endears him to the audience. His comedic timing is spot on and he plays the character seriously enough to not take him over the top which makes for a solid, hilarious performance. Also, Hochkeppel seems to have been born for this role. His understanding of this character is clear and the way he portrays the loveable, but wanting-to-be-bad Moonface is quite enjoyable. There’s a tendency for actors to take this role over the top, but Hochkeppel keeps him reigned in just enough to be farcical but still charming and non-obnoxious. Kudos to both of Geiger and Hochkeppel for their efforts.

Lawrence Custis, Robyn Bloom and Doug Thomas. Credit: Russell Wooldridge

Playing the role of Reno Sweeney, an actor has some pretty big shoes to fill but Robyn Bloom take the reigns and makes the role her own. Seemingly channeling the spirt of Mae West, Bloom is comfortable and confident in this role and it shows. She gives an assured performance and makes the character likeable from the moment she steps onto the stage. Her Angels (Lisa Rigsby, Marcie Prince, Maggie Mellott, Tirana McCorkle, Abby McDonough, and Miranda Snyder) impressively keep up as well, displaying their apt dance and tap skills throughout. Her delivery is natural and her timing is fantastic. She has a clear, smooth voice that resonates throughout the theatre, especially in her featured numbers such as the highly energized title song, “Anything Goes” and the hand-clapping-foot-tapping “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.” Though she doesn’t have the usual “belt” actresses who play this character have, her performances of the songs and her dance abilities are a joy to watch making for a superb performance, overall.

Jim Gross, Becca Hanauer and Ryan Geiger. Credit: Russell Wooldridge

The standout in this particular production is Maddie Bohrer as Bonnie (remember, I mentioned her earlier in this review). Now, Bonnie is more of a supporting character, but Bohrer has put her front and center in every scene she’s in. She knows this character well and portrays her as a street-wise, but caring girl who does what she can to help her friends. Bohrer has the perfect look for the character and her delivery of the dialogue is clear and authentic. The thing that sets her apart is that she is so expressive, and one can’t help but notice her even when the entire ensemble is on the stage. She keeps her performance consistent throughout the entire production and is an absolute joy to watch. Her renditions of “Heaven Hop” and “Let’s Step Out” have you wanting more from her character and she’s one to watch. Hats off to Bohrer for an outstanding showing.

Final thought… Anything Goes exists mainly to highlight the songs of Cole Porter. There’s not much to the Book and, it seems very haphazardly thrown together to work around the music. Production-wise, there are a few interesting casting choices, the Set Design is appropriate, but a bit flat, and the choreography seems more concentrated in the more popular numbers, which leaves the other dancing a little lackluster throughout. However, the vocal work of the entire ensemble is quite admirable and makes up for the minor flaws in this production. Overall, it is a good, solid production and the ensemble is giving 100% effort and, it is a favorite classic to which the audience responds well. If you’re in it for a good fluffy, entertaining show, this one’s for you and you will have a delightful evening of theatre.

This is what I thought of Silhouette Stages’ production of Anything Goes… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Anything Goes will play through March 24 at Silhouette Stages, 10400 Cross Fox Lane, Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-637-5289 or purchase them online.

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Review: Lucky Stiff at Silhouette Stages

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes with one 20-minute intermission
Something funny’s going on and it’s happening at Silhouette Stages in Columbia with their latest offering, Lucky Stiff by Lynn Ahrens (Book and Lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (Music), with Direction by Conni Trump Ross, Music Direction by William Georg, Choreography by Tina DeSimone, Set Design by Douglas Thomas, and Costume Design by Linda Swan.

The Cast of Lucky Stiff. Credit: Silhouette Stages


Lucky Stiff is based on a 1983 novel by Michael Butterworth called The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo and is about a nobody English shoe salesman named Harry Witherspoon who lives an uneventful life in East Grinstead, England. He learns that his Uncle Anthony, from Atlantic City, USA has died (killed by his legally blind lover), and he stands to inherit $6 million. The catch is, Harry has to agree to take Uncle Anthony’s corpse on a whirlwind Monte Carlo all-expenses paid vacation or all the money goes to Uncle Anthony’s favorite charity, the Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn. Harry agrees and sets out to fulfill Uncle Anthony’s dying wish but while in Monte Carlo, he meets a very quirky cast of characters who have plans of their own for the $6 million.
Have a traditional proscenium (traditional) stage, Set Design by Douglas Thomas is innovative and creative. Thomas begins with a blank stage with black curtains and actually uses a quite minimal design using tri-flats to represent different settings that were easy to move and set up. Not once is the audience confused as to where a scene is taking place and use of easy-to-move set pieces, as well, adds to the production value. The attention to detail is impressive with specific bed sheets, glamorous gold table cloths, and representations of the inside of a plane passenger cabin and a public bus. Overall, Set Design was spot on and added great production value.

Doug Thomas, Andy Kolp, Rob Wall, & Neal Townsend. Credit: Silhouette Stages


Costume Design by Linda Swann is splendid as this piece musical/comedy theatre, so everything is a little over the top and it is set in present day. Each character has his or her own individual style and each actor’s wardrobe works well for his or her character. Swann gives us a well thought-out, detailed-oriented Costume Design that helps define these zany characters without making caricatures out of them. Working with characters who are stereotypes and even one or two with secret identities, Swann does a bang up job with her design for this production.
No musical would be complete without a little dancing and Choreography by Tina DeSimone is charming and entertaining. I can tell there are some strong dancers in this ensemble as well as some who aren’t as strong as others, but DeSimone really gets her cast and has modified her choreography (modified, NOT dumbed down) to suit her cast and that’s such an important talent for a choreographer to have. She adds in a good old fashioned kick-line (which always goes over well, like it or not) and has her cast moving comfortably on the stage as well as giving her more experienced dancers more challenging choreography to utilize and show of their talents. Kudos to DeSimone for her excellent efforts.

Rob Wall, Mike COrnell, Becca Hanauer, & Lisa Sharpe. Credit: Silhouette Stages


Music Direction was tackled by William Georg and even though this production used recorded or canned music, it is still executed beautifully. Georg has a vocally strong ensemble to work with anyway and in the opening number, “Something Funny’s Going On”, the power behind the vocals certainly makes the audience take notice and clearly announces this production is ready to begin. Georg mentioned that the system used for this production is more than just pushing a play and stop button, but more interactive and he actually controls cues and timing in the numbers which is quite impressive seeing as though he provides all of the sound effects required, as well. The cast sounds brilliant and, from where I was sitting, not one cue was missed so, major kudos to William Georg on his musical work.
Direction duties are tacked by Conni Trump Ross and she has put on a well-thought out, well put-together production. Her casting is top-notch and fitting and the pacing of this piece keeps it interesting and ending at an appropriate time. Ross seems to understand this piece and the story it tells, while keeping in mind the comedy that goes along with it. She doesn’t take the piece too seriously, but gets the important message across of taking that leap of faith once in a while and trying new things because you never know what can come of it. With Ross’ superb guidance, the ensemble is able thoroughly and seamlessly tell this crazy story.
This is definitely an ensemble piece and the entire ensemble knocks it out of the ballpark, making this an enjoyable, fun evening of theatre.
Todd Hochkeppel takes on a supporting role as Luigi Gaudi and his dedication and effort make for a strong, funny performance. This character is an observer, in the background, and popping up when least expected or when it’s least convenient and Hochkeppel takes this character and runs with it. His character choices, especially his movement, mannerism, and impeccable Mediterranean accent make for an upbeat and fantastic performance.

Don Patterson & Kristen Zwobot. Credit: Silhouette Stages


Don Patterson takes on the role of the neurotic, optometrist Vinnie DiRuzzio. Poor Vinnie, who also happens to be the brother of one of the women after Harry Witherspoon and the $6 million, is dragged into this story kicking and screaming but takes it all in stride. At first glance, Patterson seemed a little out of place, being a tad older than the rest of the “main” cast, but after a minute or two, that is forgotten and he fits right in with this crazy cast of characters. He seems to grasp the character of Vinnie and his neurotic tendencies and portrays him well. Patterson is comfortable in his role, is confident, and does a great job, vocally, with his numbers such as “The Telephone Song” and his duet “Rita’s Confession,” giving a strong, solid performance.

Featuring Alyssa Bell, Rob Wall, & Mike Cornell. Credit: Silhouette Stages


The beautiful Alyssa Bell takes on the role of the beautiful Dominique DuMonaco, a club singer who is “hired” to show harry a good time while he’s in Monte Carlo but ends up in a bit of a different arrangement by the end of the piece. Let me say that I am thoroughly impressed by the effort Bell gives to her character. She especially gives 100% to her solo number “Speaking French” and she is a joy to watch, tackling more challenging choreography while having to belt out a doozy of a song. Though the challenging choreography may have affected her vocal performance a bit, not allowing her to take a much needed breath in her song and belt it out as it should have been, she still does a stellar job with this part. She plays her character flawlessly with just enough “slinkiness” to make her sexy, but also enough naivety to make her innocent and likable. Her accent is commendable and, overall, she her performance is quite admirable.

Featuring Rob Wall & Mike Cornell. Credit: Silhouette Stages


Rob Wall is superb as Harry Witherspoon and really embodies this character making it his own. As the character in which this story revolves around, Wall holds his own and the responsibility quite well giving a strong, self-assured performance. His chemistry with the rest of the ensemble is effortless and helps make his character more authentic. He does a great job maneuvering Uncle Anthony (played brilliantly by a still and quiet Mike Cornell) around in a wheelchair and not crashing into everything up on the stage, which is actually a pretty impressive feat. I would like more volume from him during his songs but he does belt the high money notes, which is natural and, vocally, Wall is a dynamo, with his smooth bari-tenor voice resonating throughout the theatre. He understands his character and you can see the insecurities in the choices he makes onstage and within his face and mannerisms, making for a fine and praiseworthy performance.
Maddie Bohrer, a newcomer to Silhouette Stages, takes on the role of Annabel Glick, a straight-laced, no-nonsense representative from The Universal Dog Home of Brooklyn, just waiting for Harry Witherspoon to trip up, just once, so the $6 million can go to the dogs, instead. Bohrer is absolutely charming and sweet in this role and she plays it beautifully. Her transition from “all-business” to letting her hair down is smooth and effortless and her chemistry with Wall is brilliant. I wouldn’t necessarily consider Bohrer a coloratura soprano, but her voice is sweet and strong and it works perfectly for her character and, on side note, I’d love to see her wail in a rock-opera sometime, just to see what she can do! Her performance is robust  and on point and a joy to watch.

Mike Cornell & Kristen Zwobot. Credit: Silhouette Stages


Kristen Zwobot as Rita La Porta is a standout in this production. From the moment she steps on stage she is in character (the stereotype of a New Jersey gangster girlfriend) and she is consistent throughout the piece. Her comedic timing is spot on and it helps that she grasps the comedy and her character allowing her to have a good command of the stage. Her look, character choices, and use of a New Jersey-esque accent make for a funny, hearty performance. It’s worth mentioning that Zwobot is a bona fide vocal powerhouse. Her voice is strong and clear in numbers such as “Rita’s Confession” and “Funny Meeting You Here,” filling the entire theatre (and then some) making for an outstanding and memorable performance.
Final thought… Lucky Stiff is a fun, fast-paced farce that is sure to tickle your funny bone and have your toes tapping. The material from Ahrens & Flaherty is catchy and easy to listen to and the production is well-thought out and put-together. The entire ensemble is dedicated and gives 100% to their performance and they tell the story effectively. Make sure you add this to your list of things to see this season because you won’t be disappointed.
This is what I thought of Silhouette Stages’ production of Lucky Stiff… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!
Lucky Stiff will play through March 26 at Silhouette Stages, 10400 Cross Fox Lane, Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-637-5289 or purchase them online.
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