Arts Alive: Cappies Review of Justice High School's Production of Anything Goes

By Communications and Community Relations Staff
December 09, 2019

Fairfax County Public Schools students are talented actors, musicians, and visual artists. Many FCPS high schools participate in the Washington, D.C., chapter of the Critics and Awards Program for High School Theatre, otherwise known as the Cappies.

The Cappies is a program through which high school theater and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews, and publish those reviews in local newspapers. There are fifteen Cappies chapters across the United States and Canada. 

Editor's Note: This review of Justice High School's production of Anything Goes is written by Colleen McGuire of Oakton High School. 

The ship has sailed, the waters have calmed, the port is empty. But the dazzling spectacle of Justice High School's Anything Goes will not soon be forgotten. The electrifying personas aboard the S.S. American had audience members awestruck and amused "All Through the Night".

Justice High School's production of Anything Goes
Students in Justice High School's production of Anything Goes

Making its debut at Broadway's Alvin Theatre in 1934, Cole Porter's Tony-award winning musical follows the complex lives of various passengers on the ocean liner the S.S. American. Wanted criminal Moonface Martin lurks around the ship attempting to avoid any suspicion, while famed nightclub performer Reno Sweeney aids stowaway Billy Crocker in his quest for debutante Hope Harcourt. Justice's production met Porter's vision, with each cast member expressing the individuality of their character while also coming together as a strong ensemble.

Aided by a powerful belt and intense passion, Andrea Pedemonte brought the character of nightclub singer Reno Sweeney to life. Her dramatic choices effectively showcased the diva-like spirit of the star, contributing to Reno's character development with every move. Pedemonte dominated the stage with her dramatic and vocal prowess, capturing the audience's attention at every instance. Her chemistry with friend and colleague Billy Crocker (Sam Wells) was expressed through their seemingly effortless rapport, as shown in their lovable duet "You're the Top." Wells displayed the charismatic character in a way that left the audience longing for more of his classic charm, with traditional vocals that brought the show into the time period. His longing for love interest Hope Harcourt (Viviana Luccioli) was shown through the endearing "All Through the Night", the duet expressing the pair's conflicting feelings for each other.

Renowned criminal Moonface Martin (Darien Roby) had audience members rolling in the aisles at every line, his flawless New York accent contributing to his amusing character. Roby's stunning vocals commanded the theater in the humorous "Be Like the Bluebird," every note as pure and clear as the one before.

The rest of the cast helped fill out the ambience of the ship, demonstrating the individuality of each passenger while also creating a sense of uniformity within ensembles. Notably, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Max Belmar) brought humor into his character at every turn, with his physical humor and English accent invoking laughs from every member of the audience. The bubbly personalities and constant energy of Reno's Angels contributed to the uniformity of their ensemble, while also maintaining individuality with each specific member. The entire cast was extremely effective in telling the story, with dazzling harmonies and impressive dancing showcased in such showstoppers as "Heaven Hop" and "Blow Gabriel Blow."

The technical aspects of the show brought professionalism aboard, bringing the show into the 1930's time period with every detail. The costume department, led by Zoe Greer and Naila Ohmke, employed a remarkable attention to detail with multiple costume changes per character, each new piece contributing to the production. Each one of the costumes fit the personalities of the character extremely well, from Reno's dramatic ball gowns to the uniformity of the Angels' outfits.

Effective lighting by Liv Findorff and Liv Orlando brought another level to the show, expressing the mood of each scene. Spotlights were used to cast silhouettes of actors onto the set and accentuate different parts of the stage for dramatic effect.

Justice High School's production of Anything Goes was a "De-Lovely" experience, with impressive technical aspects that highlighted the ever-present dramatic and vocal expertise onstage. The S.S. American was teeming with talent and energy, bringing the audience aboard for the voyage of a lifetime.