Reno Sweeney and Billy Crocker played by Michelle Rocheford Johnston and Brett Michael Wilson

Review and photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb

Colchester Community Theatre wrapped up its run of the musical comedy “Anything Goes” February 19 with a full matinee house and wonderful, energetic performance at Bacon Academy in Colchester, Connecticut.

Set aboard the ocean liner SS American on voyage from New York to London, “Anything Goes” is the tale of young Wall Street broker Billy Crocker who stows away in order to win the girl he loves, heiress Hope Harcourt. Her family’s business is in financial trouble and she is engaged to the wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. On board Crocker is aided by his friend, nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Moonface Martin, a gangster disguised as a cleryman. Originally performed on Broadway in 1934 with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, “Anything Goes” offers tunes that became popular hits and vigorous tap dance routines.

Brett Michael Wilson and Jenna Solari share the spotlight as Billy Crocker and Hope Harcourt

The CCT production opened in a Manhattan bar with the song “I Get a Kick Out of You” sung by Michelle Rocheford Johnston as Reno Sweeney. By day, Johnston is Director of Alumni Relations at Southern Connecticut State University. In her debut with the Colchester drama company, Johnston reprised a role she played in college. Complimenting her excellent acting performance, Johnston’s strong voice was featured throughout the show in other numbers, including duets of “You’re the Top,” “Friendship” and “The Gypsy in Me,” as well as, ensemble numbers “Anything Goes” and the especially powerful “Blow, Gabriel, Blow.”

In the roles of Billy Crocker and Hope Harcount were Brett Michael Wilson and Jenna Solari. Wilson studied at The Hartt School of Music and brought to the Colchester stage a long list of threatrical credits and accolades, most recently a nomination for best actor in a musical on for his performance in Titanic-The Musical in 2011. Solari is a Head Start Education Manager/Teacher; this was her fourth show with CCT. The two shared the spotlight for a particularly charming, on ship rendition of “Easy to Love,” in addition to “It’s De-lovely.” They were joined by the Sailors for “All Through the Night.”

Jennifer Rykowski as Erma

Crowd pleasing comedic farce performances were delivered by Richard Gallacher as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh and Michael Puscas as the “slightly sloshed businessman” Elisha Whitney. Crocker’s boss, Elisha Whitney is also on the trip and takes to pursuing Hope Harcourt’s mother, Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt played by Dianne McBroome. This marks Gallacher’s tenth year with CCT. Puscas too has been in several of CCT’s musical productions. Outside of community theatre, McBroome does Readers Theatre with her second graders.

A tap dancing cast

More comedic antics came from Erma played by Jennifer Rykowski as the blond bombshell accompanying Moonface Martin, played by Christopher Ozmun. This was the third CCT production for Rykowski, a member of Commedia Mania, a Commedia del Arte Troupe that performs in Connecticut and Massachusetts. It was a second appearance with CCT for Ozmun, the Coordinator of Math and Science for the Vernon School System.

Wallis Johnson directed with choreography by Lesley Gallagher and musical

Reno Sweeney

direction by Pawel Jura. Set design was 1930s art deco.

According to Diane Ozmun, CCT president and one of the ship’s passengers in the production, for most of her fellow cast members it was a first foray into tap dancing. Rehearsals were held four nights a week for seven weeks, at times with “seventy people on stage tap dancing.”

Ozmun said the goal of CCT is take audiences away from everyday stresses through the enjoyment of a few hours of entertainment.

Wedding scene

“That’s the prize,” said Ozmun.

Take a bow

In its 14th season, a dream for CCT is to build an arts center in Colchester as a home for their community theatre and other local artistic and cultural endeavors. Ozmun, a 4th grade teacher in Manchester,  has also been Music Director for CCT”s  Summer Children’s Theater Workshop for the last six years.

Ozmun emphasized she is extremely appreciative of the continued advertising and sponsorship support from area merchants and the audiences which faithfully attend each season.

The CCT production was presented via special arrangement with TAMS-WITMARK MUSIC LIBRARY, INC. and costume rental from Broadway Costumes (TM), Inc. “Anything Goes” ran Feb. 17, 7:00 p.m., Feb. 18, 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and Feb. 19, 2:00 p.m.