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story.lead_photo.caption Appearing in The Royal Players’ upcoming production of Anything Goes are Koty Mansfield, from left, who appears as Sir Evelyn Oakleigh; Skyla Conger, as Hope Harcourt; Brooke Melton, as Reno Sweeney; and Jake Coffman, as Billy Crocker. The musical opens Thursday at The Royal Theatre in Benton.

— The Royal Players will present Anything Goes Thursday through Aug. 12 and again Aug. 16-19 at The Royal Theatre in Benton. Show times are 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and again Aug. 16, 17 and 18, and 2 p.m. Aug. 12 and Aug. 19.

The 1934 musical is sponsored locally by the W.W. and Anne Jones Trust and directed by Bob Bidewell of Little Rock.

The story takes place aboard the ocean liner S.S. American, which is preparing to set sail from New York to England. Among the passengers are Reno Sweeney, a nightclub singer and former evangelist, and her pal Billy Crocker, a known playboy who falls for heiress Hope Harcourt, only to find out she’s engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.

This is Bidewell’s first time to direct a show at The Royal.

“I’ve been a fan for many years,” said Bidewell, who is executive director of The Studio Theatre in Little Rock. A graduate of Arkansas State University, Bidewell has been involved in more than 100 productions with theaters in Jonesboro, Paragould, Little Rock and North Little Rock.

This is his third time to direct Anything Goes. He directed it in 1987 for Greene County Tech High School in Paragould and in 1990 for the Foundation of the Arts’ community theater in Jonesboro.

He said his love of the score, the comedic plot twists and the overall fun of the production has brought him back again for the Royal Players’ production.

The musical features songs and lyrics by Cole Porter and is based on the book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse, later revised by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Ethel Merman appeared in the lead role of Reno when the musical premiered on Broadway in 1934 and the a film version, which was released in 1936; the film version also starred Bing Crosby as Billy.

The musical score includes “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “It’s De-Lovely,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and the title song, “Anything Goes.”

Olivia Stephens of Conway is the choreographer. Playing in the band are Christian Waldron of Bryant, pianist; Bidewell, keyboard; Jake Wyatt of Arkadelphia, percussion; and Lynn Hoggard of Benton, bass.

Among the principal players in Anything Goes are:

• Brooke Melton of Little Rock, who plays Reno.

• Jake Coffman of Little Rock, Billy Crocker.

• Skyla Congar of Haskell, Hope Harcourt.

• Koty Mansfield of Benton, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.

Rounding out the cast are:

• Jamie Partain of Benton, as Mrs. Harcourt, Hope’s overbearing mother who is mainly concerned with money and social class.

• Nicholas Bell of Benton, as Moonface Martin, a gangster who is loyal to his friends.

• Georgeann Burbank of North Little Rock as Bonnie, Moonface’s girlfriend.

• Byron Taylor of Little Rock, Elisha J. Whitney, a successful, nearsighted Wall Street banker who thinks he is always right.

• Matthew Burns of Benton, as Bishop Henry T. Dobson, a missionary who has worked in China.

Also appearing in the cast are Carl McBride, as the captain of the ship; Katie McCallister, the purser; Carson Clay, the steward; Debbie Wright, the reporter; Brent Compton, the cameraman; Brennon Humphry, Ching; and Donovan Battie, Ling. All are of Benton.

Appearing as The Angels, who are Reno’s backup singers and dancers, are Izzy Hammonds, Emily Johnson and Lauren Lisowe, all of Benton; Madeline Martin of Sheridan; and Payton Lee and Makayla Shipe, both of Bryant.

Ensemble members are Lexie Ellis of Bryant and Savannah Price of Alexander.

General admission tickets are $15 for adults; $12 for senior citizens, members of the military and college students; and $6 for high school students and younger. Tickets may be purchased online at or

For reservations, call (501) 315-5483. Tickets may also be available at the door, on a first-come, first-served basis.

Anything Goes is presented by arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library Inc., 560 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10022.

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