To the lifeboats? Morristown High’s ‘Anything Goes’ on collision course with winter

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Imagine if the Titanic saw the iceberg coming… yet still could not avoid it.

That’s where the Morristown High School drama department found itself on Tuesday night.

Weather-related school closures and auditorium scheduling conflicts meant this was its first full dress rehearsal for Anything Goes… a shipboard romp that is supposed to open on Thursday!

SHOW'S OVER: Artistic Director Michael Maguire cuts short special presentation of 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School because of state of emergency, March 6, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
SHOW’S OVER: Artistic Director Michael Maguire cuts short special presentation of ‘Anything Goes’ at Morristown High School, citing wintry state of emergency, March 6, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The cast never made it to the second act. After the title song closed Act I, Artistic Director Michael Maguire rushed onstage, thanked the small audience for attending this special “sensory friendly” presentation, and informed the actors and musicians they had to clear the building within minutes.

Gov. Phil Murphy’s state of emergency was about to kick in, ahead of a predicted snowstorm that would cancel classes — and one last rehearsal — on Wednesday. Wintry weather sank rehearsals last Friday and again on Monday.

Not wanting to squander a single precious moment, the production team lassoed the cast back onstage Tuesday for a hasty run-through of the song-and-dance number Blow, Gabriel, Blow. Some students already had stripped down to their sweats. The exercise felt like a two-minute drill in football.

Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin

Ensemble number in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Hugh Grennan ('Billy Crocker') and Victoria Fanning ('Reno Sweeney') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kate Croonquist in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anna Skelton ("Hope Harcourt') gets kiss from Greg Mehlin ('Lord Oakleigh') to the horror of Maggie Mustion ('Evangeline Harcourt') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Nile Birch ('Moonfae Martin') and Kate Croonquist ('Erma') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Victoria Fanning and Hugh Grennan in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Topher Bashant ('Ship's Purser') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Greg Mehlin ('Lord Evelyn Oakleigh') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Bailey McGuinn, center, in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Hugh Grennan and fans in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Veteran crew members Olivia Bilbault, left, and Yasmina Abi-Aad, for 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
SHOW'S OVER: Artistic Director Michael Maguire cuts short special presentation of 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School because of state of emergency, March 6, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Posing for paparazzi in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Sean Armington ('Lead Sailor') and Bailey McGuinn ('Purity') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Ethan Hoffman ('Elisha Whitney') suffers a seagull attack in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Nile Birch in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anna Skelton in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kate Croonquist in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Hugh Grennan stars in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anna Skelton in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Sean Armington in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Nile Birch and Michailia Monfalcone in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Greg Mehlin and Victoria Fanning in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
An Angel and a Sailor in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
One of Reno's Angels greets a Sailor in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Topher Bashant dances with new friend in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kate Croonquist ('Erma') and Nile Birch ('Moonface Martin') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anna Skelton ('Hope Harcourt') and Hugh Grennan ('Billy Crocker') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Robert Loeser ('Ship's Captain') and Nile Birch ('Moonface Martin') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kate Croonquist strikes a pose, admired by Rob Loeser, in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Nile Birch and Kate Croonquist in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anna Skelton and Hugh Grennan in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
EARLY CURTAIN CALL--after weather concerns close rehearsal of 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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P1090033 - Ensemble number in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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“I think everybody is pretty erratic and pretty freaked out,” said junior Olivia Bilbault, a crew member.

Hugh Grennan ('Billy Crocker') and Victoria Fanning ('Reno Sweeney') in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
in ‘Anything Goes’ at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“It’s a lot of pressure… they always call the week before a show opens Hell Week,” said senior Yasmina Abi-Aad, another crew veteran.

MHS spring musicals usually are put together over 12 weeks. This year’s production–involving more than 100 actors, musicians and crew members, and creation of a massive ocean liner set–had only 10 weeks of preparation. School scheduling conflicts are shoving the show earlier in March than is customary.

Video: ‘Anything Goes,’ two days before Opening Night

Lots of tickets have been sold for four performances, from Thursday through Sunday. But what if the Morris School District stays closed on Thursday?  Could a matinee be added on Saturday? 

Well, no. That would bump into the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade in Morristown. Tack on a Sunday evening performance, perhaps?

“These kids are dying to put on this show, so we’re going to make it work,” vowed Staging Director Katie Adams.

“The shortened time frame forces a sense of professionalism,” insisted Music Director David Gallagher.

Veteran crew members Olivia Bilbault, left, and Yasmina Abi-Aad, for 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Veteran crew members Olivia Bilbault, left, and Yasmina Abi-Aad, for ‘Anything Goes’ at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Abi-Aad and Bilbault said the sprint to Opening Night always is hectic. The show must go on, and they are ready to dig deep for this one.

“We know it will get done,” Bilbault said, stoically.

“We always pull through,” added Abi-Aad.

Senior Anna Skelton, who plays Hope Harcourt in Cole Porter’s 1934 masterpiece of musical froth, appeared unbowed after Tuesday’s bumpy maiden voyage. Despite heroic efforts all around, the S.S. American sprang a few leaks.

During a duet with Hugh Grennan (Billy Crocker), Skelton survived a wardrobe malfunction that could have been as disastrous as the one endured by Olympic ice dancer Gabriella Papadakis last month.

Anna Skelton in 'Anything Goes' at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Anna Skelton in ‘Anything Goes’ at Morristown High School, March 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Later, Skelton had to cry an ocean, to kill time while others fumbled backstage with a costume change. Cast members tried hard, with varying degrees of success, to hit their marks and remember lines.

“Everyone is putting their full energy and full heart into this,” said Skelton, star of last spring’s  Legally Blonde.

She promised Anything Goes will be “really good,” whenever it chugs out of port. But with a foot of snow bearing down on Morristown, she acknowledged her final MHS production has been…stressful. 

“We’re definitely feeling the whole wrath of hell this week,” Skelton said.

MORE ABOUT ‘ANYTHING GOES’

Anything Goes is **scheduled** to run from March 8-11, 2018, at Morristown High School, 50 Early St. Tickets: $8-$15. Show times (subject to change!): Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 pm, Sunday at 2 pm.

Video: ‘Anything Goes’ preview at Morristown Onstage 2018:

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