Charles Osborne, star of Modesto Performing Art's "Anything Goes," talks to BroadwayWorld about his role as Billy Crocker and what audiences can expect from the Cole Porter Musical. Read the full interview below!
Describe the plot.
Anything Goes is about a bunch of rich, zany, fabulous characters in the 1930's making a transatlantic crossing, and all the hijinks they get into onboard. My character, Billy Crocker, stows away to win back the love of his life; Reno Sweeney is onboard to perform her nightclub act; there's a hapless gangster trying to escape the cops, and a dozen other crazy characters trapped onboard with us. Oh, and about 25 beautiful tap-dancing girls thrown in for good measure!
Talk a bit about your character.
Billy Crocker is a playboy. He's a young, broke, charismatic skirt chaser, who falls head over heels in love with a rich debutante, Hope Harcourt. But nothing stops him from getting what he wants. So not only does he stow away on a ship to win her back, but he throws together various disguises to hide from the crew, and his boss, who is also on board! So, in that respect, not only is he a romantic, but he's also a bit of a clown. And that dichotomy definitely comes through in this production.
Give me a bit on your background as an actor.
I grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. I started taking dance classes when I was nine. I always wanted to be an actor, but I didn't know I could sing till went to the local performing arts high school. That's where I fell in love with musical theatre. I got my Equity card performing at The Muny in St. Louis, the largest outdoor theatre in the country. And a few months ago, I graduated from North Carolina School of the Arts, and moved to New York. And now, here I am, in California!
So, what goes for you? What does Anything Goes mean?
"Anything goes" is Billy's modus operandi. He seizes every moment, and just goes with it. I don't want to give away too many surprises, but Billy is essentially a McGyver of cockamamie schemes. In a matter of seconds, he'll come up with a new plan or disguise, and fully commit to it, even if it makes no logical sense. And when that doesn't work, he'll try something even more harebrained. Because when it comes to getting what he wants, "Anything Goes."
What makes this show so "DeLovely"?
I think the word itself says it all. "Delovely" is a made-up, nonsensical word that captures a moment of intimacy and a moment of whimsy in one neat little package. And that's just what the show is. There are Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers ballroom numbers, alongside wild, break-neck tap dances. There's "I Get a Kick Out of You," this bluesy song of longing, right next to "You're the Top," which is Cole Porter trying to "top" himself at silly unconventional rhyming. It all goes back to that dichotomy I was talking about earlier: Romance and clowning - It's "DeLovely"! Those two extremes are present in every scene and every character of the show. Billy's "DeLovely," Reno's "DeLovely," the show is "DeLovely." There just wasn't a way to express that sensation, and I think that's why Cole Porter created the word, and why he created it for this show in particular.
What can audiences expect from this particular production?
They can expect show-stopping dance numbers, beautiful music - I mean, the songs alone that came from this show: "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top," "Easy to Love," "Anything Goes," "DeLovely," "Blow Gabriel Blow" - they're classics. And the cast is unbeatable. Colleen Hawkes is terrific as Reno Sweeney. She's hilarious, and her voice is just unbelievable. Natalie Cleek is such a sweet and elegant Hope Harcourt, Grace Lieberman is a riot as Mrs. Harcourt, and I hear that Billy Crocker ain't so bad, either...
A lot of work for only 5 performances. Is it worth it?
Absolutely. It's such a gift to be able to perform. And to share this story with a New Group of people every night. This is a great story, and these are immortal songs, and I get the privilege to bring them to life for a few hundred people at once. And I get to do that five times? Of course it's worth it!
The chemistry of a cast really makes or breaks a show. How does that come across with MPA's Anything Goes?
We all really enjoy being onstage together. You'll really see us relax, and let go in this production. There's a trust we've built together, and you'll see it manifested in the fearlessness of the performances. If one of us goes out on a limb, we're all going out on a limb, because we're all in this madcap world of "Anything Goes" together. It's quite a ride.