Sept. 20--Now that Rachel York is a parent, the days when anything goes are coming to an end.
The reason? Her daughter, Olivia, has reached preschool age.
York has picked up rave reviews for her portrayal of Reno Sweeney in Roundabout Theatre Company's "Anything Goes." The tour -- her last for the foreseeable future -- kicked off in Cleveland in October and has since made its way to Toronto, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles. Olivia has accompanied her mom every step of the way.
The New York City-based actress has visited children's museums and playgrounds with her well-traveled tot and carved out playtime between rehearsals and shows.
The company was in the midst of its Las Vegas run when Olivia turned 2, York recalled, adding, "The cast and audience sang 'Happy Birthday' to her. How many 2-year-olds get to have that in their lifetimes?"
The mother-daughter team (plus nanny) will be in Costa Mesa from Tuesday to Sunday when the high-energy musical comes to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts. As the final show of the 2012-13 Broadway season, "Anything Goes," directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, is part of the venue's Curtain Call series.
"The only other time the center presented 'Anything Goes' was in September 1989, and it starred the one and only Mitzi Gaynor," said the center's president, Terrence Dwyer. "So when this Tony Award-winning Broadway revival of this musical went on tour, we were naturally elated to include this as part of our season. It's exciting to think of who will be attending this show -- those who remember it from '89 and a whole new generation or two."
Music and lyrics by legendary composer and songwriter Cole Porter -- "Anything Goes," "It's De-Lovely", and "I Get a Kick Out of You" -- uplift the tale of an ocean liner's passengers. The musical has been revived several times since its 1934 debut on Broadway.
According to York, the fun of "Anything Goes" lies in its costumes, comedy, art-deco sets and dances. For her, the challenge is in maintaining the level of energy required by the role -- evidenced by a nine-minute tap routine, which is a complete aerobic workout, she said. When exhaustion hits, she turns to the audience, refueling with their joy and appreciation.
As soon as the lights dim, York finds that the onstage production offers viewers -- and her -- an escape. Even those who have seen "Anything Goes" in high school or college, she said, will watch something completely different this time around, since the writing, choreography and cast have been elevated to "perfection."
"This is a holiday. It's not a show you learn anything from, necessarily," said York, who has appeared in "City of Angels," "Les Miserables" and the CBS movie "Lucy" as Lucille Ball. "It's pure entertainment."
An upbringing on tour
Some of that entertainment continues backstage.
York recounted a conversation with a lighting director whose child had taken about 50 flights before she was even 2. Like her, Olivia doesn't have many friends the same age but is highly developed and often mistaken for being older.
"She's been around so many adults that are actors -- dynamic and gregarious kind of people -- that it's rubbed off on her," the proud mother said, noticing that Olivia has "flourished" into a helpful and smart toddler with a flair for singing. "People from the cast sometimes give her tap and ballet lessons, and she loves it."
The experience has been hard on York, though, as she derives joy from her job but wishes she could put her child to sleep. Until the tour concludes in November, she plans to give her all to "Anything Goes" so people continue to jump to their feet during curtain call. Despite the time York manages to spend with her daughter, once the production winds down, the actress will cherish the chance to be a "regular mom."
Reflecting on her own childhood in Oviedo, Fla. -- "horse country" -- York mused that it was starkly different from Olivia's. Not only did she ride her bike in the local woods, but she was also shy, had reading problems and experienced panic attacks if a teacher called on her or it was time for a test.
It was common, she said, to return from school to an empty house, but she spent the time reading newspapers and plays aloud and singing for hours.
"When my sister, who is four years older than me, graduated, I remember saying, 'She needs to figure out what she wants to do. I already know what I want to do!'" York said, laughing. "Acting was a way for me to refine myself and develop parts of me that were weak."
Dog meets child
Co-lead Josh Franklin, who portrays Billy Crocker, was also bitten by the acting bug early and enrolled in the Colorado Springs Conservatory in his youth.
His current project came to him via an email by Marshall, who used a text message to invite him to play Danny Zuko in "Grease" -- their last time working together.
"The audience's response has been so much fun, and with that comes a sense of pride in our work," Franklin said. "It's fun to come into the theater every day and know that the audience is going to go crazy. It lifts everyone's spirits."
Franklin's career has been peppered with chances to act opposite stars like Sutton Foster, Joel Grey, Jessica Walter and Susan Anton. He even spent eight months as a cruise entertainer alongside Jennifer Hudson.
Featured as Bob Gaudio in "Jersey Boys" and Chad in "All Shook Up," he's spent a lot of time on the road and in hotel rooms across the United States and Canada, immersed in his other passion -- songwriting.
"Somewhere in my storage in Brooklyn are a bunch of lyrics written on a variety of hotel note pads," said Franklin, who earlier this year released a self-titled debut album comprising 11 songs. "One day, I'm going to frame that."
Franklin, too, doesn't travel alone. His companion of choice is 3-year-old Sookie, his rescue dog, who as a 5-month-old "peed all over the place" during his stint in "Grease." Although the pooch won't keep her owner company in Orange County, she has befriended fellow actor Ed Staudenmayer's collie, Mac.
Before stepping under the spotlight, Staudenmayer, who portrays Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, and Franklin often leave the two pets to play while the two humans "play on stage."
Olivia and Sookie have also met, Franklin said, but the canine isn't fully clear on what a child is.
"She's not sure about what's going on and if it's another dog," he said, chuckling. "So Olivia is more excited to see Sookie, and Sookie is just confused."
If You Go
What: Roundabout Theatre Company's "Anything Goes"
Where: Segerstrom Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Cost: Start at $20
[For the record, 11:21 p.m. Sept. 20: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the tour kicked off in Toronto when in fact it launched in Cleveland.]
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