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Anything goes at Ashland High

"Anything Goes!,' Cole Porter's uproarious, campy, Broadway hit of 1934, shines bright on the Ashland High School Theatre stage for the next two weeks.

The play is presented by the Ashland High School Performing Arts Department, under the tutelage of Betsy Bishop.

From the lead actor in the musical, Galen Schloming to chorus member Kaela Gail, everyone in this production truly looked like they were enjoying rehearsals.

Schloming plays Billy Crocker, a stowaway on the luxury liner S.S. American, who is torn between two women, debutante Hope Harcourt and Reno Sweeney, Crocker's best friend.

"This is the first big lead role I have done," Schloming, a senior, said. "I auditioned for this part because I see a lit of myself in Billy in his hopes and aspirations."

Schloming did say that Crocker also has some traits that he lacks.

"He has a cockiness, charisma and confidence that I lack," he explained. "Billy also shows a childish innocence and ignorance and is very much in his own little world."

Schloming said the most challenging part of his role is in the endurance the role demands.

"Vocal stamina is the biggest challenge," he said. "It is hard to keep my chops up, Singing and singing at the volume level required is a real challenge."

While the role is demanding, many at AHS are probably jealous of him as he gets to play opposite two talented, and attractive, female leads, Steffi Garrard and Samantha Tedaldi.

Garrard plays ingenue debutante Hope Harcourt, a part she is used to plating.

"I often get cast as the ingenue because of my blonde hair," she laughed. "It is always fun to find what makes that character different from previous ones I have played."

Garrard said Hope is torn by the two world's she live in.

"Her dilemma is her having to choose between the world she was raised in as a debutante and the other world she would like to live in represented by Billy. That is basically what the whole play is about."

That and Billy's dilemma of having to choose between two beautiful women, something all men would dread. Reno Sweeney, the "other woman" is a bawdy, wild nightclub singer who represents Billy's hidden wild side.

Schloming said connecting with the other cast members and their characters has been a big and important aspect of his defining his role.

"It has been hard to find those connections between the people in the he play," he noted. "It complicates things when there are other people in the mix. Connections are everything for me and the most important part of my role as I can't do this play alone. Those connections make the show real and believable."

Chorus member Kaela Gail said chorus members are busy throughout the play, something not normally found in high school productions.

"We actually have a lot to do," she said. "We help provide the substory and further the plot. And we all get to play our roles in an over-the-top way. I am in the first scene as one of the bar girls and it is a lot of fun."

Among the songs the chorus sings are "Anything Goes!," "Blow Gabriel, Blow," both with Reno, and "There is No Cure Like Travel."

The play is directed by Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran G. Valmont Thomas, one of the more dynamic actors on American stage today. He noted that the students have had a great time exploring the eccentricities of the production.

"It is fun for them because it is silly," he noted. "For student performers it is a challenge because so much of what they see is intimate and this production is so large. The time period is in the vaudeville age and that is an era they haven't seen."

To get them in the spirit of the play, G. Val gave the actors a homework assignment.

"I gave them the assignment to watch one cartoon a day," he explained. "I told them to try to watch an old Looney Tunes cartoon."

He also said the large cast was a challenge.

"It is a fairly large cast," he said. "We kept it minimum and we still have 35 people on stage. We could have had 50."

Earning the trust of the actors and getting over their feeling of awe toward him were two other challenges for G. Val.

"If the actors feel they can trust you, you can get the best out of them," he noted. "But because I am well-known in the acting community here, I also had to get rid of the intimidation factor. I had to convince them that we were peers and that theater is a collaborative effort. I had to let them know that we could not do the show without every one of them being there and working as a team."

"Anything Goes!" begins its two-week run tonight (March 4) with evening performances March 4-6 and 11-13 at 7:30 p.m. There will be one matinee performance March 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14, $13 if purchased in advance, and are available at CD Or Not CD, Tree House Books and the AHS Main Office.