Anything Goes Review at the Prep – A Stellar Shipboard Comedy

The theatrical productions of The Cape and Sword Drama Society at St. Joseph's Prep are de facto professional productions. The caliber of entertainment and production values of the performances match the professional ones that we regularly review.

Tickets are only $10 apiece, with no service fees and hidden charges, and with the intimate, acoustically perfect Prep theater seating just 300 people, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The bottom line - dollar for dollar, this is – by far - the best value for your money for a live stage show, in Greater Philadelphia. The only difference is that it just happens to be high school students performing and staging the shows.

There’s a reason for this professionalism: Tony Braithwaite '89 has been at the helm of the program for over 15 years. Currently the artistic director at Act II Playhouse in Ambler, PA, he is the best and most dynamic comedic actor in the Greater Philadelphia region - and whom we reviewed most recently in his hilarious performance in The Big Bang Musical Review at the Kimmel Center.

Over the years, his talents and professionalism have instilled multitudes of Prep students with the values, commitment, and confidence that they can produce professional-quality theater – and they deliver every single time. As they put it, officially:

The mission of The Cape and Sword Drama Society of Saint Joseph’s Prep is to provide vibrant opportunities for students to engage in all aspects of producing theatre, and for the students to present their school community with dynamic entertainment…

The Cape and Sword hopes to follow the Jesuit philosophy of cura personalis, in that it strives to nurture the talents of all individual students, in whatever area of theatre those talents may be (acting, singing, stagecraft, music, etc.).

Jesuit education has its very roots in theatre, and the earliest Jesuit curriculum included drama. (According to the Jesuit ratio studiorum of 1586, “theatre could be a forceful agent for stirring pupils’ interest in learning.”) In keeping with this tradition, The Cape and Sword hopes to further the co-curricular life of the school, and provide an exciting outlet for Prep students to experience and to appreciate the performing arts.

Finally, in the great Prep tradition, and following the Jesuit mantra of age quod agis (do well whatever you do), The Cape and Sword’s mission is always to strive for excellence.

Their latest production is of the Cole Porter classic screwball musical comedy, Anything Goes, taking place on a luxury cruise ship – the S. S. American - making a transatlantic crossing. Although set in 1934, it is remarkably apropos to today, especially during this year marking the Titanic centennial, with the 1997 film being re-released and when the doomed ship is featured on many documentaries.

The blue and white set is stunning, and of professional quality. It looks as much like a real luxury cruise ship as you can ever see on stage, with luminous portholes glowing from double decks. The suspension of disbelief is quite easy, as a result. The opening scene, set in a bar in Manhattan, is the first of many brilliant pieces of scenery, along with the ship’s passenger cabins and the brig. (The audience rightfully applauded the sets, as they were gradually unveiled!)

The lighting effects were magnificent – most specifically, the blue wave effect that enveloped the stage to make it seem as if it were actually plying the waters of the Atlantic, en route to London. And the props contributed as well – including the streamers which burst forth at the departure of the S. S. American from New York, as well as a surprise at the end.

The production’s major showstoppers were – of course – "Anything Goes" and 'Blow, Gabriel, Blow", which featured nearly the entire cast on stage, with complex choreography, which were both rousing and stunning.

The leads - all seniors - turned in outstanding performances. Josie Andrews (Hope Harcourt) has performed professionally, in fact, appearing in Oliver! and Fiddler on the Roof at the Walnut Street Theater. Hasani Allen is superb as Billy Crocker; he is a veteran of Prep theater, with this being the seventh time he has appeared on the Prep stage. Jessica Riloff played the extraordinarily demanding role of Reno Sweeney with grace, aplomb, and remarkable stage presence. Patrick Romano enlivened the role of Moonface Martin with great comedy, and produced the most laughs of the night. And Andrew Staub mastered the British accent necessary to play the clueless, aristocratic Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, to tremendous comic effect.

Among the ensemble, Paul Mancano and Brendan McHale were particularly entertaining as Luke and John, and were a hit with the audience. Scott Hannum’s comedic timing as the Purser was also notable. But the entire cast of 37 brought an energetic spirit to the performance, and they achieved the goal of any production – to make the audience forget about the outside world and enter the fictional world on stage for a couple of hours. The ensemble’s singing and dancing in support of the leads made the production highly entertaining – and they also brought comedy as well. Watch for cameos by the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers…

We strongly, strongly recommend, that you purchase your tickets in advance, as they will undoubtedly sell out. You can buy them at the Sauter Dining Hall (i.e., the Prep cafeteria) during lunch periods, and also online at The Cape and Sword Drama Society of Saint Joseph’s Prep.

Remaining Show Dates & Times

Thursday, April 12 - 7:00 pm

Friday, April 13 - 8:00 pm

Saturday, April 14 - 8:00 pm

Sunday, April 15 - 3:00 pm

All tickets purchased online are null and void if not redeemed 5 minutes before start of performance.

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