Veteran actor Tom O’Rourke of Overland Park playing in ‘Anything Goes’ show opener at The White Theatre

Leah Wankum - November 4, 2019 1:41 pm
A scene from ‘Anything Goes,’ now performing at The White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. Photo submitted by Ruth Bigus

Tom O’Rourke of Overland Park, a familiar face for theatre goers in Kansas City, is one of the cast in “Anything Goes,” the opening show of The White Theatre’s 15th season.

The White Theatre at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City’s performance “Anything Goes,” a classic boy-meets-girl musical, features an almost entirely local and veteran cast of performers. Among them is O’Rourke, who plays the Captain of the ship that makes up the setting of the musical.

This will be O’Rourke’s 17th show at The White Theatre. He’s also performed in 18 shows at Theatre in the Park.

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“I’ve been fortunate to be in some really good shows there with some great people, good cast members,” he said. “You make a lot of friends when you do theatre productions that you didn’t know before. You wind up lifelong friends with some of these people.”

Tom O’Rourke. Submitted photo.

O’Rourke said “Anything Goes” is a particularly fun show for anyone in the mood to follow a few love stories, but fear not for spoiler alerts: Nothing more will be said about that here. It could also be considered a comedy, with plenty of laughs and delightful scenes.

“I think it’s a good show for everybody,” he said. “I think the younger people would like the music, and I don’t think there’s anything in there that would offend anybody.”

By the end of the show, several characters wind up in romantic relationships — but who ends up with whom remains to be seen. As such, O’Rourke as the captain of the ship ends up having to perform multiple weddings on the voyage, but his character had only performed funerals.

“For example, one of the lines I have is ‘Dearly beloved, we’re gathered here today over the bodies —’ and everyone says wait a minute!” he laughed. “So I’ve got to go back and correct myself.”

As the one in charge, the captain also has to throw people into the brig when things get out of hand. He also finds himself in counseling roles as the travelers turn to him for advice.

The musical features iconic music with lyrics by Cole Porter, several numbers incorporating tap dance and amusing characters.

“There’s a tap number that ends the first act, and it’s pretty exciting and ends with a bang,” O’Rourke said. “We hope that that’s the thing that, after intermission, people are going to come back ready for more.”

Theatre lovers may have seen O’Rourke in his role as John Hancock in “1776,” which follows the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He has also played Everett Baker in “Crazy for You,” a particularly fun show because he performed alongside his daughter Julie (O’Rourke) Kaul, who played Everett’s daughter Polly.

O’Rourke has also played Admiral Peary twice when “Ragtime” returned to the White Theatre in two seasons; during one of those performances, he had six other parts as well, making 14 costume changes in the show.

“They set me up right off stage, I had two girls that would help me because I really had literally less than a minute sometimes to get out of one (costume) and into another,” O’Rourke said. “That was stressful, to say the least.”

In “Anything Goes,” the cast is predominantly male, with the lead character, Reno Sweeny, played by Jennifer Renfrow of Warrensburg, Missouri. O’Rourke and Renfrow have performed together in the past — one season, they both played in “Mary Poppins” (she played Mary, he was Admiral Boom).

In addition to O’Rourke and Renfrow, there are other familiar faces in this production, including: D’Andre McKenzie (“Newsies”) playing the role of Billy Crocker; Ashton Botts (“Young Frankenstein”) as Hope Harcourt; Sarah Montoya (“Mary Poppins” and “Shrek”) as Hope’s mother; and Guy Gardner, a Kansas City area actor, as Moonface Martin.

Directed by Theatre in the Park’s producing artistic director Tim Bair — who is also a White Theatre veteran — the show opened Saturday, Nov. 2 at The Lewis and Shirley White Theatre, located at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. Additional performances continue through Nov. 17.

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