MONTVILLE, NJ - From Feb. 28 to March 2, local residents were taken on a cruise upon a ship known as the S.S. American. For during those evenings, Montville Township High School held its annual spring musical production, which this year was "Anything Goes," based on the book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Woodhouse, with music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
"This is a fun process for all of us," said 16-year-old Jadyn Silverberg, who plays one of the big leads as Reno Sweeney. "Once you go on stage, it's just amazing, and so much fun!"
Every one of Montville High's young performers had something to say about being part of a very classic Broadway musical, which has been played countless times at high school productions. Montville High has had a previous production of "Anything Goes," back in 1996.
"'Anything Goes' is wonderful," said 16-year-old junior Anna Rehberg, who plays the role of Hope Harcourt. "I love everything about this production, from learning the music to watching my cast mates grow. I'm so proud of everyone and this opportunity. I also love this character I play and relate to. She tries to be proper, but ultimately goes with her heart. I feel like she's a part of me."
Other young performers felt the same with their roles, like 17-year-old junior Jeff Gallup, who plays petty gangster Moonface Martin, a.k.a. Public Enemy Number 13.
"It's an old-fashion stick," Gallup said. "'Anything Goes' is a fast-paced play with quick scenes and dialogue. All the jokes just fly. My role as Moonface is a fun part to find a physicality for it and make it my own."
The Broadway classic features a rich story with many plots. This includes young Wall Street broker Billy Crocker trying to win the heart of true love interest Hope Harcourt, while she is already engaged and taking up many disguises to avoid arrest due to mistaken identity as gangster Snake Eyes Johnson. Then there's another hilarious gangster running from the law, an evangelist-turned nightclub with a tap-dancing troupe, a Wall Street banker being drunk during half the cruise and Chinese converts taking everyone's money on the boat during the gambling scenes.
For this spring musical production, some veteran and newcomers had to learn all kinds of new techniques for their roles, whether that was putting on accents or even learning to dance.
"For my role as Sir Evelyn Oakliegh, Hope's fiance, I use a British accent," said 17-year-old junior Matthew Krase. "This play is going to be really good. I'm excited to go on stage, with a crowd in front of us, thriving from the energy they give us."
Carly Benson, the 18-year-old senior who plays Bonnie, the girlfriend of Moonface, mentioned other things the cast had to adjust to for this musical.
"We had to act, while singing and dancing at the same time," said Benson, who is also co-president of the high school's Drama Club. "Everyone had to learn to tap dance, and we pulled it off! The story of 'Anything Goes' is amazing, with a great love story. So funny and great for any age. It just makes you laugh and be filled with joy and happiness."
Dance choreography was conducted by Caitlin Camuccio, who has been a choreographer for Montville High for three years now. She has done several choreography projects all over New Jersey and as far as New York and Philadelphia. She is also head dance instructor and in-house choreographer for Fine Arts Connection, in Pine Brook.
For three nights, an average of 700 people filled the auditorium of Montville High, amounting to a final total of close to 2,100 attendees. And the cast members said they were very appreciative to see every single face of relatives, friends and school mates.
"'Anything Goes' is a really different show than we normally hold a production of, stemming from the Golden Age, and we, the cast and crew, have become a big family," said 18-year-old senior Skyler Herman, who plays Wall Street banker Elisha J. Whitney. "We have arguments, but we keep making sure things run smoothly."
Seventeen-year-old junior Julie Lee, who plays the mother of Hope, could second that motion.
"We always help each other and open the curtains for everyone," said Lee. "It just happens when you spend so much time together."
And 17-year-old senior Jason Joo, who plays the main role of Billy Crocker, knew the crowds would feel the same thing when they experienced the music and wit of “Anything Goes.” After all, it didn't get that title for nothing!
"The play is really exciting and people will be surprised by this feel-good story," said Joo, who is also co-president of the Drama Club.
And indeed, audiences were surprised by the performances of its young performers and the magic of the musical. High school director Scott Baird, from Rockaway, could not stop bragging about his students.
"'Anything Goes' is a hilarious show about love, friendship, and a ton of tap dancing," said Baird. "'Anything Goes' is a more 'Golden Age' show as opposed to last year's production of 'Shrek.' It challenges the kids both vocally and dramatically. As a theater educator, I feel it is important to have the students experience four different styles of shows before they graduate. The cast and crew have been great! They have been working hard for the past three months to make this show the success it is!"
This year marks Baird's sixth year at Montville Township High School and his 13th production. Outside of the high school, he directs and acts all over New Jersey for several theaters, such as The Montville Barn Theatre, Chatham Playhouse and Old Library Theatre in Fair Lawn.
Later this year, Montville Township High School intends to hold a Broadway Night on April 26. This will be followed by a One Act Festival on May 10 and 11, where drama students will enact and even direct small plays themselves.
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