Northampton Press

Thursday, July 18, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KEN EKJarrod Yuskauskas (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) and Mia Scarpa (Reno Sweeney), “Anything Goes,” July 11-28, Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, Muhlenberg College, Allentown. Copyright - Kenneth Ek CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY KEN EKJarrod Yuskauskas (Lord Evelyn Oakleigh) and Mia Scarpa (Reno Sweeney), “Anything Goes,” July 11-28, Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre, Muhlenberg College, Allentown. Copyright - Kenneth Ek

Curtain Rises: ‘Anything Goes’ brings Jarrod Yuskauskas home to MSMT

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by Paul Willistein pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

It’s the seventh season for Jarrod Yuskauskas at Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre (MSMT).

For 2019, Yuskauskas plays Lord Evelyn Oakleigh in “Anything Goes,” July 11-28, Baker Theatre, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, Allentown.

Yuskauskas played Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” in 2017 and had lead roles in “Gypsy,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Spamalot” since 2012 at MSMT.

Henry Higgins is his favorite role so far at MSMT. “He’s a lot to dig into. And I enjoyed that,” Yuskauskas says.

Does Yuskauskas specialize in playing British aristocrats? “I don’t mind it. They’re lots of fun,” says Yuskauskas.

He also enjoys the suits he gets to wear for his role as Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Tony Award nominee Michael McDonald designed costumes.

“Michael McDonald’s costumes for this show are sublime. It’s just a pleasure to walk on stage.

“Michael [McDonald] and I have known each other for 20 years. And it’s the first time we’ve worked together like this.”

Bob Fahringer plays Moonface Martin and Jim VanValen plays Elisha Whitney in “Anything Goes.”

“Anything Goes” reunites Yuskauskas with Mia Scarpa in the starring role of Reno Sweeney. Scarpa played Dolly in “Hello, Dolly!” in 2015 and Rose in “Gypsy” in 2016 at MSMT.

“It’s the third time Mia and I fall in love again onstage,” says Yuskauskas, who was Horace Vandergelder to her Dolly Levi in “Hello, Dolly!” and Herbie to her Momma Rose in “Gypsy.”

“We have a dance number together, which is a hoot and a half,“ Yuskauskas says of a scene he has with Scarpa in “Anything Goes.”

Shelley Oliver, longtime member of the Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre and Dance, choreographed “Anything Goes.” Oliver has appeared internationally with tap world legends, including Savion Glover and Gregory Hines. She is a founding member of Manhattan Tap and the Shelley Oliver Tap Dancers, and has many credits on the stage and in television.

“The title sequence is just a knockout. The dancers are just extraordinary,” says Yuskauskas.

Bryan L. Wade is music director. John Raley designed the set. Gertjan Houben designed lighting. Ian Scot designed sound.

“The design behind this show is stunningly beautiful: the scenic, the sound, the costumes.”

It’s the first time for Yuskauskas in the role of Lord Evelyn Oakleigh, although he did the musical in 2001 at Bucks County Playhouse and the former Pocono Playhouse.

“Anything Goes” is directed by MSMT Founding Artistic Director Charles Richter with a wink, wink, nod, nod to a different time in musical theater.

Cole Porter’s musical features the standards “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “You’re the Top,” “It’s De-lovely,” “Friendship,” “Blow, Gabriel, Blow” and the title song, “Anything Goes.”

The show has a book by Timothy Crouse and John Weidman, after an original book by P.G. Wodehouse, Guy Bolton, Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. Cole Porter wrote the music and lyrics.

“Anything Goes” is about madcap antics aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt (Laura Frye), engaged to Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy No. 13, “Moonface” Martin, aid Billy in his quest to win Hope.

“It is a creation of the 1930s. Charlie [Richter], Shelley [Oliver] and Bryan [Wade] have really worked to honor that era. The comic timing, the vocal sounds and the choreography are all an homage to that great era of American musicals.

“It was in its prime at this point. It’s prime American musical-comedy. It’s so silly and fun and engaging.

“It’s just very classic. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. It’s a very straightforward story, but just enhanced by these incredibly lyricized songs that are brilliantly funny. And then, of course, there’s the dancing.”

Yuskauskas also likes Baker Theatre, a Broadway jewel-box of a theater: “It is a beautiful space to work in.”

Yuskauskas has completed his eighth year as Moravian Academy Director of Theater. He usually is in one Lehigh Valley regional theater show per year.

Of directing and producing theater and also acting on stage, he says, “They serve each other. I don’t think I could do one without the other as effectively as I hope I do. I’m constantly learning new things about being a better actor and producing. And I’ve learned so much in being in a classroom. What I’ve learned from students is amazing.”

At Moravian Academy, Yuskauskas produces and directs three shows annually, including the “Coffeehouse,” a fall variety show; a play, and a musical.

“We’ve been recognized multiple times and it’s always great to be recognized by the wider communty for the work that we’re created,” says Yuskauskas, referring to the annual Freddy Awards for high school musicals.

Yuskauskas, a Tamaqua Are High School graduate, received a BA in Theater from DeSales University, and an MFA in Acting from University of Alabama-Alabama Shakespeare Festival Professional Actor Training Program.

Of MSMT, Yuskauskas says, “It feels like coming home. It’s such a loving family there to be part of. Charlie [Richter] has been a remarkable mentor since I came back to the Valley.”

Yuskauskas says the Lehigh Valley has a vibrant theater scene:

“It’s remarkable. And it just gets better every year. I don’t know if it’s an anomalie, the quality of the work and the variety. If you love theater, it’s a great place to live.”

“Anything Goes,” 7:30 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday; 2 p.m. matinees the first Saturday and every Sunday, July 11 - 28. Tickets: Muhlenberg College Department of Theatre and Dance box office, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, Trexler Pavilion for Theatre and Dance, Muhlenberg College, 2400 W. Chew St., Allentown; muhlenberg.edu/theatre/SMT; 484-664-3333

“Curtain Rises” is a column about the theater, stage shows, the actors in them and the directors and others who make them possible. Email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com