Theater & Dance
"Anything Goes"

By: Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, book by John Weidman and Timothy Crouse
Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Directed by: Lee Ann Payne
Featuring: Dan Demers, Nathaniel Rothrock, Caitlin McGinty, Chris Reber, Jessica Maxey, Melissa Momboisse, Mike Rhone, Barbara Heninger, Zaya Kolia, Rachelle Abbey, Kyle Arrouzet, Alyson Chilton, Andrew Kracht, Michelle Morales, Ron Munekawa, Fiona O'Neill, and Mike Saenz
When: August 29-September 15, 2019
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City
Tickets: $37-$60; call 650-349-6411, extension 2, or visit

Demers, Heninger
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Dan Demers, left, and Barbara Heninger in Hillbarn Theatre’s production of “Anything Goes,” which runs August 29-September 15, 2019.
Hillbarn Theatre opens season
with Cole Porter's 'Anything Goes'
It's a small space brilliantly filled with great musicals
September 12, 2019

A beautiful truth: Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City is the best place in the Bay Area for great, over-the-top-fun musicals.

OK, that can be argued. After all, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, Palo Alto Players and The Stage, and City Light in San Jose have been known to produce some great musicals.

But Hillbarn has shown again and again that walking into its (relatively) small auditorium for a musical is walking into a better, happier reality.

There are a number of factors, including casts that deliver with fabulous energy, dancing and singing their hearts out. Good costuming, sometimes good sets (sometimes not). An improved sound system.

But mainly, it has to do with amazing lead performers.

Leslie Ivy, Anthone D. Jackson, Dawn L. Troupe and Gary Stanford Jr. in "The Color Purple." Melissa WolfKlain as “Funny Girl.” Dan Demers as Pseudolus and David Blackburn as Hero in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Monique Hafen as “Sweet Charity.” Courtney Hatcher as Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde.” Caitlin McGinty as “Mary Poppins.” Keith Pinto as the most amazing emcee ever in “Cabaret,” with WolfKlain as Sally, and stunning Jessicas Maxey and Whittemore and Noelani Neal in an astounding chorus. Troupe in “Sister Act.” Ana Paula Malagón, as Maria in “Westside Story.” Heather Orth as Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd.”

Demers, McGinty and Maxey are among the stars of the “Anything Goes,” currently on stage at the Hillbarn, and would be reason enough to attend even if the rest of the cast wasn’t remarkable, which it is.

Demers plays Elisha Whitney, a “Wall Street mogul drunkard. The part is very fun,” Demers said in a recent phone call. “He kind of blows on stage, throws out a few jokes and one-liners, then blows off stage. Comedic peppering, little scenes here and there.”

Demers, who is executive artistic director of Hillbarn, is a key to its tremendous successes over the recent several years. He is loved by his casts, who go out of the way to come back and work with him, he is brilliant on stage, and Hillbarn’s board of directors, Foster City and San Mateo County must feel pretty good about him, too.

For instance, Hillbarn not only has a full bar in the lobby now, thanks to the Foster City Lions Club, it has a new roof, thanks to a grant from the County of San Mateo (“I asked politely,” said Demers. “I sent them a letter”), and all the seats in the auditorium — which used to be certified torture devices — have all been refurbished and rebuilt.

“They just finished yesterday,” Demers said before “Anything Goes” opened. “I’ve never been so excited for people to sit in our chairs.”

McGinty is a stunning beauty. Those eyes! Those lips! That amazing height! McGinty is six feet tall, and is a pure magnet for eyes and ears when singing and dancing. She is a real trouper, and really brings energy to what she does.

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And Maxey is another stunning beauty, although not as tall as McGinty (who is?), and a terrific singer and dancer. She so loves to perform at Hillbarn that she was in the chorus for “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” hidden in the shadows with 17 other singers.

Nathaniel Rothrock, who plays Billy Crocker, is “a wild talent, and a great human being,” said Demers. It is Rothrock’s first time at Hillbarn. Demers is also enthusiastic about Melissa Momboisse, who plays debutante Hope Harcourt.

“Anything Goes” started as a musical in 1934 with music and lyrics by the great Cole Porter, and a book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse. Since 1934 it has been through a dizzying number of rewrites and new stagings.

Hillbarn is using the 1987 version, known as the Beaumont version, because it opened at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in New York. Its book is by John Weidman and Timothy Crouse.

“I like the timing and layout of the songs in Beaumont better,” said Demers. “This one is just kind of a better fit for me. The original book was rough.”

The Cole Porter tunes are classics, including “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

Elisha Whitney is a passenger on an ocean liner sailing from New York to London. Billy Crocker, his assistant, stows away — not to follow his boss, but because he’s in love with Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to a British lord (played by Mike Rhone). Also in the mix are nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (played by the stunning McGinty) and gangster “Moonface” Martin, played by Chris Reber.

The set is by Kuo-Hao Lo, who did the impressive set for Hillbarn’s production of “Spamalot,” and also for Hillbarn’s “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The Full Monty.” Costume designer Sharron Peng is responsible for the gorgeous gowns and other period touches. Lee Ann Payne directs.

This production uses recorded music tracks, not a live band, because, “I wanted to be financially conscientious,” Demers said.

This show — which closes on Sunday, September 15, 2019 — is kicking off Hillbarn’s 78th season.

Coming up are:

“It’s Only a Play,” an inside-theater comedy by Terence McNally, which runs October 10–27, 2019. “It’s wildly funny, just brilliantly written,” said Demers.

"Newsies" is to run December 5–22, 2019. It has a Tony-winning score by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, and book by Harvey Fierstein. “It’s a good show with strong male dancers,” said Demers.

The hilarious musical comedy “Little Shop of Horrors,” by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, is to run January 23–February 9, 2020. “I’m excited to see that in our space,” said Demers, who was mum on how much of the theater will be eaten by the monstrous Audrey II.

"Laughter on the 23rd Floor," a Neil Simon comedy based on his own history as a comedy writer for Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.” Running March 12–29, 2020, the show will be directed by Jeffrey Lo.

"La Cage Aux Folles" dances into Hillbarn May 7–24, 2020. with a book by Harvey Fierstein and lyrics and music by Jerry Herman, it is a delightful musical.

"The Four Gifts" is a new work, based on a book by Father Joe Bradley, a priest in residence at St. Gregory’s Catholic Church in San Mateo. “It is a drama about his life and his ministry,” said Demers. “I wanted to bring him in and do this show. He was interested in making his book into play. I knew him at Junipero Serra High. He didn’t have a traditional life leading into ministry. He had unique life experiences which he uses in his ministry. We wanted to show people that even preachers are people. A staged reading is planned for date yet to be announced in the fall, then the play will run June 18–21, 2020.

John Orr is a member of the America Theatre Critics Association. Email him at
Caitlin McGinty
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Caitlin McGinty as Reno Sweeney in Hillbarn Theatre’s production of “Anything Goes,” which runs August 29-September 15, 2019.
Jessica Maxey
Mark & Tracy Photography / Hillbarn Theatre
Jessica Maxey as Erma in Hillbarn Theatre’s production of “Anything Goes,” which runs August 29-September 15, 2019.