Porthouse Theatre celebrates 40th anniversary

Denise Wright

VIEW a gallery of the Porthouse Theatre productions.

“Ladies and gentlemen, places please, places for the start of Act 1,” a voice announces over the loudspeaker.

The audience turns its attention to the stage, which boasts a red, white and blue cruise ship.

The overture music begins. Members of the audience placidly enjoy the music, yet their fixated eyes advertise they are eagerly awaiting the show to come.

The overture ends, and the audience bursts into applause as a rotating platform in the center of the stage rotates to reveal four characters in a bar, the opening scene for “Anything Goes.”

“Anything Goes,” a Cole Porter musical comedy, is Porthouse Theatre’s 2008 season opener. Porthouse Theatre, affiliated with Kent State’s School of Theatre and Dance, is located on the grounds of Blossom Music Center and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer.

The musical is full of romance, mistaken identities and tap dancing, said Effie Tsengas, public relations and marketing director for Porthouse Theatre and Kent State’s School of Theatre and Dance.

“It’s a farce so you know it’s going to be fast-paced and funny,” Tsengas said.

Kayce Cummings, who plays Hope Harcourt, one of the leading ladies in the production, said even her husband, who doesn’t particularly enjoy theater, enjoys the show because it “takes off from point one.”

“In most musicals you have two main characters that you’re focusing on, but what I love about ‘Anything Goes’ is that there are three powerful entities or couples to focus on,”

Cummings said.

Cummings said she also appreciates the production’s humor.

“It reaches all generations because of the various types of humor,” Cummings said.

This will be the first time the theater has produced “Anything Goes.”

In fact, this summer is full of “firsts” for Porthouse.

“Normally we do a larger musical and a smaller musical,” Tsengas said. “This year we’re taking on two large musicals so it’s going to make for a long summer.”

Aside from two musicals, the theater will also host an adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” The show, appropriately titled “Alice.,” will be directed by Matthew Earnest, a highly acclaimed director from New York City.

This will be Earnest’s third consecutive summer directing at Porthouse. He directed “Our Town” two summers ago and last summer’s “Peter Pan.”

“This particular director has such a unique and edgy style.” Tsengas said. “He puts his own twist on each show he directs, and you’re never going to see the same thing twice.”

The official 40th anniversary celebration will coincide with the opening night of “Alice.,” which is on July 4.

Tsengas said a picnic theme is in the works for the July 4 celebration, complete with refreshments and games before the show. After the show, the Brass Band of the Western Reserve will perform, and guests may attend a champagne reception. These events are free to all who attend the show.

The third and final show of the summer will be “The Music Man.” Terri Kent, artistic director at Porthouse Theatre, will be directing both “Anything Goes” and “The Music Man.”

“It’s one of the most all-American shows you can take your kids to see,” Tsengas said. “It’s just classical musical theater.”

Cummings recommended attending all the shows this summer, adding that it’s better than spending an afternoon at the movie theater.

“When you’re at a movie you’re set away from the action, and it’s like you’re viewing something in a box,” she said. “Theater is another dynamic because it lets you become a part of the action.”

Tsengas agreed.

“I just hope people who have never given Porthouse a chance will come out this summer,” Tsengas said. “It’s definitely going to be a memorable summer – no matter what show they choose.”

Contact general assignment reporter Denise Wright at [email protected].