PIEDMONT -- Piedmont High School students have a myriad of choices for extracurricular activities. So when more than 100 students opted to be part of the school's upcoming musical, "Anything Goes," director Amy Moorhead was thrilled.
"We have a cast of 63, a large crew and a student orchestra, comprised of 40-plus musicians conducted by our music teacher, Catherine DeVos, with Eileen Meredith handling the vocal direction," Moorhead said. "It's exciting for our performers to work with a full orchestra and not an opportunity that many high school actors, or ones outside of high school for that matter, get to experience."
Moorhead and her cast have been hard at work bringing the 1930s-era musical to life since October.
"The annual musical is the most fun thing I do," said Moorhead, who teaches dance and English at Piedmont High. "It's been a wonderful experience not only for the actors and crew but also for the orchestra members."
This is not Moorhead's first experience with Cole Porter's snappy musical numbers and the colorful characters who inhabit the S.S. American cruise ship. She choreographed "Anything Goes" two years ago at Alameda's Encinal High School, where her husband, Bob, is a drama teacher.
"I knew our students would love it," she added. The musical has always been a popular choice for school and community productions with such memorable songs such as "Anything Goes," "You're the Top" and "I Get a Kick Out of You."
The story revolves around antics aboard an ocean liner bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker (Cole Becker) is a stowaway who loves the heiress Hope Harcourt (Madeline Turner). Harcourt and her society mother as well as her fiancé, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Tyler Ellis) are among the passengers. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy No. 13 Moonface Martin (Claire Pinkham and Walter LeDuy, respectively) add to the fun as they help Billy in his romantic quest.
The musical, revived several times since its 1934 debut, features large tap dancing numbers that have made it a favorite with audiences.
"I used to be a bit afraid that the amount of tap would scare kids away," noted Moorhead, who is also doing the choreography. "There are moments in the show where everyone is tapping, and others where smaller groups are doing really challenging steps. But, the kids really took to it."
Moorhead recalled how much students in Piedmont's production of "A Chorus Line" loved the tap in that show.
"We staged it four years ago, and they still talk about how much fun it was, and many still remember the tap routines," she said.
Moorhead likes to mix up the school's musical offerings.
"Our last show was 'Oklahoma,' which actually has some heaviness to it, so I wanted something light for this year," she said. "We also hadn't done anything featuring the 1930s, and 'Anything Goes' with its fun characters seemed a good choice."
Moorhead also wanted to feature the strong group of female singers at Piedmont High.
"This show has three really nice singing roles -- Reno, Hope and Irma, two of which will be sung by seniors who have earned their turn in the spotlight. The whole cast is a group of the nicest kids to deal with."
Moorhead looks forward to the costumes that will give a real authenticity to the period piece and also be fun for the kids to wear.
"The look will be fabulous with '30s costumes and hair and makeup," she added. "My favorite part of the show is how the students transform so that even their friends and family don't recognize them. It enables them to transport the audience to another time with the costumes, set and their talent."
What: Piedmont High School's production of "Anything Goes," the popular Cole Porter musical
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6; 8 p.m. Feb. 7-8; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9
Where: Alan Harvey Theatre, 800 Magnolia Ave. in Piedmont
Tickets: Can be purchased online at piedmont.k12.ca.us.