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 Misérables" 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."