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Heaven knows, Anything Goes

High School students staging Cole Porter classic

By Shelley Arnusch

What: Anything Goes Ð 3 rd Annual Whistler High School Musical

Where: MY Millennium Place

When: May 12-14, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $9.99

Kids these days.

Just when you think you might have the slightest idea what theyÕre into, they go and throw you for a loop, like 1930s Ethel Merman.

Following on the heels of last yearÕs 1980s-set, pop-culture classic Footloose , and its predecessor, the 1950Õs-set Bye Bye Birdie , the crew behind this yearÕs high school musical is broadening horizons even further with Anything Goes , a 1920s-set madcap romp of mistaken identities and all-round misbehavinÕ on luxury liner the S.S. American.

All aboard is an ensemble of eclectic characters that includes a nightclub-singer/evangelist named Reno Sweeney (immortalized by Merman in the 1934 stage debut and in the 1936 screen version), a runaway heiress, a gangster disguised as a minister and a lovelorn rascal disguised as a gangster.

And linking everything together is the classic Cole Porter score, source of all-time favourites such as the title track, I Get A Kick Out Of You , ItÕs De-Lovely , YouÕre The Top, and LetÕs Misbehave.

Porter is enjoying somewhat of a revival with the release of the 2004 Irwin Winkler bio-pic De-Lovely starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, though the filmÕs buzz has been less for the depiction of the composerÕs illustrious career and more for the depiction of his sexual orientation.

But the inspiration behind bringing a little Porter to Whistler this year had little to do with the film and a lot to do with a certain local teenagerÕs lifelong love of classic musicals.

That would be Whistler Secondary student Raine Playfair, a gamine strawberry blond who, by taking on the role of director/choreographer, is maintaining a mini-dynasty sister Brooke started by directing/choreographing last yearÕs Footloose .

Other constants include the return of consulting director Heather Paul of WhistlerÕs Short Skirt Theatre Co. and mom Karen Playfair as parent sponsor/producer.

Raine described the return of Paul, a seasoned actor/director, as key to another successful staging.

ÒI would have no idea what I was doing!Ó she says good-naturedly. ÒI can boss people around but she has the eye. She knows what sheÕs looking for on stage. If I were to do it, I could pull it off, but it wouldnÕt look good. It would just be random people in random places.Ó

Also key has been momÕs help with the books. High school students stage the show, but the production runs independently from Whistler Secondary. This year the musical received $2,800 of funding from the RMOWÕs Community Enrichment Program and $1,300 from the Community Foundation.

Despite the grants the kids still have to pay to play. Raine says the goal is to turn a profit in years to come to eliminate the up-front participant fee, but so far, the musicals simply break even.

But the kids continue to pony up.

ÒItÕs become a big part of the school,Ó Raine says, directing homage to Lauren Collins, the visionary behind 2003Õs Bye Bye Birdie .

ÒItÕs good because our school is so based around sports, so to add the performing arts in there is fun.Ó

Fun was definitely a factor in the selection of Anything Goes.

ÒThe music is fun, the genre is fun,Ó Raine says. ÒThere are great parts, lots of different parts and a chance for lots of different leads.Ó

One of those leads, the role of Reno Sweeney, requires some serious vocal oomph, which has arrived signed sealed and delivered courtesy of the talented Lauren Mooney. Playfair is also appreciative of her talented chorus, which makes possible the big production numbers such as the gospel-themed Blow Gabriel Blow.

Talking about the show PlayfairÕs enormous blue eyes brighten despite the monumental workload she is shouldering on her lean frame.

Think back to your senior year of high school. YouÕve got graduation Ñ the event itself and the wealth of fundraisers that accompany it. YouÕve got provincial exams. You might have a job at a local coffee shop or coach younger kids in a sport like figure skating, or like Playfair, you might do both.

Now add to that the directing and choreographing a period musical.

How does she do it?

ÒI donÕt know! I get lots of sleep,Ó Raine says, smiling. ÒWhen I have 10 minutes I take a nap. And I keep eating!Ó

And besides, she knew full well what she was getting into. She was there for BrookeÕs go of it last year, as part of the cast and the backstage crew.

ÒI knew it wasnÕt all going to be easy and that there were going to be points when I just wanted to cry,Ó Playfair says. ÒBut really, kids are kids and they pull everything together in the end.Ó

Her optimism suggests a love of the stage, which she readily confirms.

ÒI definitely think I will always be involved in community theatre,Ó Playfair says. ÒI prefer to be performing rather than directing but I wanted to give everybody else a chance to be performing this year, otherwise nobody would get to do anything.

ÒI donÕt mind directing,Ó she adds, Òbut IÕd just rather be out there, singing my heart out.Ó

Anything Goes Ð The 3 rd Annual Whistler high school musical, runs for three nights at MY Millennium Place beginning Thursday, May 12. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $9.99, available through the MY Place box office. For information call 604-935-8410.