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Published July 11 2010

Trollwood takes on comical patter of Cole Porter classic

When the Trollwood Performing Arts School opens Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, it won’t be trying to make a bold statement about the human condition.

Stage Director Michael Walling says there is “no underlying message” here. This show, which will be staged at the Trollwood school grounds in south Moorhead, is designed to entertain. And it’s designed to do so quickly and comically.

“Anything Goes,” which debuted on Broadway in 1934, is a fast-paced, joke-a-second, high-spirited comedy with some romance thrown in, too. There are revolving doors, lots of movement and plenty of song and dance.

“You have to be awake to watch it,” says Walling.

The story takes the audience back to the 1930s as a group of passengers sail from New York to jolly old England on a luxury cruise liner. Mixed-up love stories and disguises are all part of the plot.

But while the packed-in action could be fun for the audience, it also presents a challenge for the actors. Making sure everything is happening at the right time is difficult, says Catherine Smith, 18, who plays one of the “Angels,” a group of showgirls in the production.

Like the action, the lyrics to the music are tightly packed, as well.

Cole Porter “loves using a lot of words in his phrases,” Smith says.

With numbers like “Blow Gabriel Blow,” “Anything Goes” and “Heaven Hop,” the show features a stable of songs common to the “showtunes” genre. Walling uses words like “big” and “brassy” to describe the music, though he says there are also ballads.

The show’s choreographer, Aysha Upchurch of Washington, D.C., says the dance in “Anything Goes” has plenty of smiles and plenty of energy.

“It’s meant to be engaging and ‘ooh’ and ‘wow,’ ” Upchurch says. “It’s all fun.”

Of course, all those “oohs” and “wows” can take a toll.

“It’s a very intense dance show,” says Gretchen Haga, 17. It’s particularly tough for her and the other “Angels,” who have to perform in 3-inch heels.

While the comic nature of the show makes it light fare for the audience, it’s not easy from an actor’s perspective.

Megan Roos, an 18-year-old graduate of Fargo North, is the assistant stage manager for “Anything Goes,” and she says comedy is “actually harder” than drama.

“Everything about you has to be just right for people to say, ‘That’s funny. That’s hilarious,’ ” Roos says.

And, for this show, getting the comedy right is pretty crucial.

“It’s a huge punch line,” says John Ford-Dunker, 18, who plays Billy Crocker in the show. “It’s a huge joke.”

If you go

If you go

Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734