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'Anything Goes' under the tent at Corn Stock

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As the title of the show suggests, it was "Anything Goes" when it came to staging the next musical at Corn Stock Theatre's tent in Upper Bradley Park.

From an elaborate set to a wood floor in the pit to period costumes and wigs, Corn Stock made sure director Travis Olson and his cast of 36 people have been able to put on a top notch show for audiences that are already snatching up tickets for the nine-show run that begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

"Anything Goes," with Cole Porter music, is considered by many the ultimate song-and-dance musical and Olson said he believes his cast and crew will deliver on the promise.

"First of all, it's Cole Porter. So you know it's great music, the kind you'll be singing or humming when you leave the theatre. I mean, how can you go wrong with Cole Porter? You can't, really," Olson said before a recent dress rehearsal.

"Anything Goes" continues through July 20. Show time is 7:30 p.m. for each performance. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and can be reserved by calling 676-2196.

The musical is set in 1936 and takes place on a ship, the S.S. American, sailing from New York to London. It centers on passengers Hope Harcourt, traveling with her mother and her fiancé, and Billy Crocker, traveling as a stowaway with his boss Elisha Whitney. Other passengers, including nightclub star Reno Sweeney and her dancers known as Angels, and gangster-in-hiding Moonface Martin, add to the comical antics aboard the ship.

Among the notable songs in the show are "I Get a Kick Outta You," "You're The Top," "It's De-Lovely," "Friendship," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," and of course, "Anything Goes."

"Anything Goes" was among Olson's top five shows when Corn Stock asked him to direct it. He didn't have to ponder the decision long before accepting. "Besides the fact it is a show people have loved for years, I knew the hype would be there because the show is on tour. And, of course, I knew we had the talent here to do it right," he said.

Starting with the on-stage performances, the show stars Andrea Williams as Hope Harcourt, Kyle King, in his Corn Stock Theatre debut, plays Billy Crocker, Erin Durbin Craig portrays Reno Sweeney, and Mike Reams is Moonface Martin.

Other notables in the cast include Emily Hardesty as Bonnie Letour, Tim Drew as Elisha Whitney, Mark roe as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh and Barb Couri as Mrs. Wadsworth T. Harcourt.

The Angels, who will dance up a storm on the wood floor laid for that purpose because of the number of tap dances in the show, will be portrayed by Nicole Barth, Stacey Brewer, Alex Buchko, Amy Fischer, Megan Locke, Jordan Martin, Ingrid Peelle and Sara Beth Tolbert. Dancing sailors are Lance Franken, Andrew Harlan, Evan Frazier, Jay Williams, Nick Brockamp and Frank Drew.

The choreographer, Olson said, "really worked them hard, but she also made it fun. And considering the choreographer is the incomparable Erica Franken, you know it's going to be good. She took our ideas and ran with them."

Other backstage stars for this show include Chris Franken, who built the three-deck set designed by Olson, including the moving steps that help to open the upper stage of the tent for dance numbers. "The set is a character of its own. It's the first thing audiences will see and it is spectacular," Olson said.

Lisa Chamberlain and her costume crew hand-made nine of the 10 costumes the Angels wear during the show and were able to find vintage costumes for other characters.

"It's a really nice blend, with the costumes and the new wigs we bought. The show is set in 1936. That was right on the cusp of the styles of the 1940s and some of the older characters are in costumes that take them back to the 1920s," Olson said.

The eight-piece orchestra, which includes musicians capable of playing more than one instrument, "is as good as any live orchestra I've heard in any show. I have a hard time distinguishing between it and a recording, it's that good," he said. He credited music director Katie McLuckie.

"This has been a great cast to work with. We've had fun and we're ready for an audience. It's a show we can be proud of," Olson said.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).