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On Cole Porter, dance and the swellness of it all
Anything Goes premieres this weekend at Bainbridge High.
The day before Bainbridge High Schools annual spring musical opened, Katie Donais made an assertion that was funny coming from the mouth of a show choreographer.
In theater, were all awkward, she said.
To be fair, she wasnt referring to the dance numbers she put together for Anything Goes, and its safe to say that although the Cole Porter classic possesses its share of slapstick moves, the cast will remain sure on its feet.
What she was really getting at was the sense of camaraderie and inclusion that her years as a student thespian have graced her with, and that shes experienced during her preparation for the shows three-weekend run in the Bainbridge High Theatre.
Donais said that before this year, shed never actually choreographed a production before. At the same time, Anything Goes was her fifth BHS show, and shed had gotten her feet wet as a younger student appearing in Bainbridge Performing Arts productions.
So when drama instructor and director Seb Nielsen asked Donais to choreograph the show with help from fellow students Sophie Tschida and Maggie Hotchkiss, she felt confident. The fact that most of her dance background was in swing also made for a good fit with the big-hearted, fanciful flavor of the show.
A lot of Fred and Ginger loveliness, she said.
First produced on Broadway in 1934 and starring Ethel Merman, the Depression-era depression remedy Anything Goes centers around lovelorn Billy Crockers yearning to marry pure-hearted Hope Harcourt. Surrounding them are a recurring gaggle of gangsters and society swells, all jammed onto a luxury ocean liner bound from New York to London.
The plot largely serves as a backdrop for zany antics and some of Cole Porters finest and most memorable tunes including the titular Anything Goes, Youre the Top and I Get a Kick Out of You.
Its just a lot of fun its a big party, Tschida said.
The same could be said for the prospective atmosphere of spring musical preparation. Would the cast focus and cooperate? Donais and Tschida were both curious and slightly apprehensive at the thought of helming the dance leg of such a large production, in particular directing their peers. Neither, it turned out, had much to worry about.
A year ago, I wouldnt have felt comfortable doing that. But Sophie and I are two of the more seasoned actors at BHS. And a lot of the cast arent dancers, Donais said. I (also) felt confident because I was so sure of my choreography. I knew what I was doing, and I kind of conveyed that.
Rehearsals began during spring break in March, and the routine was grueling; the cast spent three to five hours Monday through Thursday in rehearsal, largely focused on dance at first.
Some choreographers, these young women said, compose moves on the spot with the entire case. They found they each needed space and time away, especially when something wasnt working.
What I would do was just sit in my room for a few hours and listen to five seconds of music over and over, Dornais said. I dont know what you guys do, but I really isolate myself.
Given that dancing wasnt the forte of many cast members, she and Tschida focused on simple but effective moves that would look good no matter what. That, in turn brought out the best in the cast and fostered that sense of inclusion Donais referred to.
Hotchkiss, who choreographed the shows entracte, had done choreography before, little bits and pieces at BHS and at Poulsbos Galletta School of Dance and Performing Arts, where she teaches.
Her interest in hip-hop and a desire for more technicality drove her design of the entracte, which takes on more of a Bob Fosse/Chicago/Cabaret feeling, complete with black leotards and gold masks.
For that, Hotchkiss pulled out a handful of the shows more experienced dancers.
Its a little more stepped-up, she said.
On Thursday afternoon, all three seemed to be undergoing that typical transition from a choreographically induced over it feeling to giddy excitement about opening night.
They laughed that the senior girls would all cry when the show wrapped, and they agreed that especially at this point in their high school careers, when anything goes and anything can happen, there was nothing as sweet as an audience.
Being onstage with a full house is the best feeling in the world, Tschida said.
Goes for it
The Bainbridge High School drama department presents Cole Porter American classic, Anything Goes May 2 through May 18 (at 7:30 p.m. May 3, 9, 10 and 17 and 2:30 p.m. May 18). Tickets, $10/$5, can be purchased at the door 45 minutes prior to curtain.