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Anything Goes, Justice High School, Falls Church, Virginia, November 15, 2019

Kara Murri

McLean High School


Welcome aboard the S.S. American! Here you'll discover grandeur, intrigue, and plenty of shenanigans, and from New York to London, "Anything Goes" on this ship. Justice High School's smooth-sailing production perfectly captured the "bon voyage" spirit with remarkable tenacity and vivacity.


Since its 1934 Broadway debut, Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse's "Anything Goes" has enraptured audiences with its witty lyrics and toe-tapping score by Cole Porter. Despite extensive tweaks and rearrangements throughout the years, the musical has remained a critically acclaimed classic, experiencing countless revivals and winning six Tony awards.


The iconic narrative centers around the eccentric passengers of a 1930's ocean liner as it voyages across the Atlantic, where a chance encounter leads Billy Crocker, a Wall Street broker, onto the S.S. American in the name of true love. Anchored by madcap comedy and a compelling love triangle, the audience watches as criminals, celebrities, and members of the upper crust mingle and misbehave.


"Anything Goes" calls for a large, dynamic ensemble, and Justice High School delivered exactly that. Most notable were Reno's Angels, who fluttered onto stage with a saintly air, navigated tricky tap steps, and blended their heavenly vocals into complex choruses. In the memorable number "Blow, Gabriel, Blow," the Angels dazzled as they ripped away their church choir robes to reveal shimmering leotards.


The ringleader of the Angels, Reno Sweeney, nightclub singer and former evangelist, was played by Andrea Pedemonte, who stood out as the powerhouse of the production. From the moment she strutted onstage, Pedemonte‘s flirtatious and sultry presence commanded attention. A true triple threat, Pedemonte's unfailing energy and exceptional vocal prowess astounded the audience in every number, exemplifying her character's confidence and passion with aplomb.


Sam Wells was versatile, charming, and urbane in his performance as the stowaway Billy Crocker. Paying homage to the Golden Age type, Wells' performance was aided by his crooning singing voice and old-fashioned charm. Shifting between various comic disguises on his quest for Hope's affection, Wells crafted a character that was both mirthful and moving. When combined with Viviana Luccioli as his sweetheart Hope, a playful yet tender romance emerged, culminating in a poignant, emotional duet.


As the notorious Moonface Martin, Darien Roby's impeccable New York accent and effortlessly hilarious quips were truly delightful. Despite his rank as Public Enemy #13, the audience couldn't help but adore Moonie, most especially when he revealed spectacular belting technique and shocking vocal power during his uproarious solo number "Be Like the Bluebird."


Another source of comic relief was Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Max Belmar), Hope's thoroughly English and thoroughly oblivious fiancé. A master of caricature and physical humor, Belmar employed a pretentious accent and amusing facial expressions so that even a mere eyebrow twitch sent the audience roaring.


Each one of Justice's technical elements embodied the extravagance of the era, particularly the cohesive, eye-catching costumes headed by Zoe Greer and Naila Ohmke. Clever light design by Liv Orlando and Liv Findorff included smartly placed spotlights and thoughtful changes in color, which enhanced moments of passion with pinks and purples, and clarified the time of day with blue moonlight or an orange-tinted dawn. An extensive, luxurious set perfectly resembled the interior of an old-fashioned cruise liner, and detailed props further established the show's opulent atmosphere.


Leaving us landlubbers wildly entertained, Justice High School's "Anything Goes" was a production that was so "delightful, delicious, and de-lovely" that it was hard to say goodbye.

Erica Bass

McLean High School


Ships Ahoy! Atop the sparkly blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean sits the S.S. American, so grab your passport and prepare to board Justice High School's dynamic production of "Anything Goes."


With a book by P.G Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, and music by Cole Porter, "Anything Goes" has captured the hearts of audiences since its 1934 opening. Beloved for its quick wit and timeless heart, the show has seen various TV, film, and stage revivals, winning multiple Tony awards.


Charming stowaway Billy Crocker boards the S.S. American to win Hope Harcourt, the object of his undying affection, who is, unfortunately for Billy, engaged to the clueless British lord, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. Fortunately for Billy, con man and Public Enemy #13 "Moonface" Martin, as well as the clever, flirtatious nightclub singer Reno Sweeny, are also aboard, and soon the group gets swept away in a wave of hilarious cons, intricate love triangles, complex tap numbers, and cruise ship chaos.


Anchoring the performance with his easy charisma and quick comedy was Sam Wells as Billy, who seemed right in his element in this Golden Age show. Wells encapsulated the poignant style of an old-timey actor, with classic charm and smooth, relaxed vocals almost reminiscent of Frank Sinatra. His ability to create chemistry with anyone was just as clear as his vibrato, as he flirted with Hope, joked with Moonface and Reno, and dazzled the crew of the American.


Andrea Pedemonte engrossed all in her flawless performance of the sultry yet earnest Reno Sweeny. Portraying Reno is no easy sailing, but true triple threat Pedemonte certainly found her sea-legs. Pedemonte brought a self-assured and scintillating attitude from the moment the train of her long red dress graced the stage, and kept her suave characterization consistent, balancing it even in her brief moments of vulnerability. She dominated in every difficult tap number and delivered a powerhouse vocal performance, with a smooth, jazzy tone and croon determined to blow even Gabriel away.


Who knew that a criminal could become the most lovable of them all? As Moonface, Darien Roby was devious and endearing, with an easy comedy so entertaining, it should be illegal. From his perfectly executed cons to his explosive vocal belt, Public Enemy #13 was #1 in the audience's heart, managing to buoy even the saddest moments with his effortless comedic timing and impeccable gangster accent.


"Anything Goes" needs a strong ensemble like a ship needs its strong crew, and Justice High School certainly cruised along. Impressive tap numbers were performed with commitment, energy, and synchronization, and amongst the sparkling white staircases of the deck, smaller ensembles such as Reno's Angels were given room to shine. The cast's supporting performances were also captivating, such as Max Belmar's Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, who epitomized a discombobulated, yet well-meaning British buffoon, bringing innocent levity through masterful physical comedy. Viviana Luccioli was also delightful as the sweet and honest Hope, the virtuous opposite to Billy's swagger.


Matching the dedicated energy of the cast were the labors of the technical crew. The costumes by Zoe Greer and Naila Ohmke captured the nautical, 1930s aura of the show, and the coordinated rainbow outfits of the Angels particularly impressed. Miniscule details became significant through Sondos Hussein, Rawan Harith, Charlie Boucher, and Alex Saouti's props, which further immersed the audience in the world of the American.


Justice High School propelled their performance of "Anything Goes" with heart, humor, and "Heaven Hops" -and did they successfully leave the audience tapping away in joy? Well, in the profound words of Reno Sweeny: "You can bet your sweet ascot!"


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