Board the SS American for a two-hour cruise back to 1934, where tap-dancing sailors hit the deck with steel-toed shoes, and white-gloved society gals dish out campy jokes.
Clearwater High School presents Anything Goes, a big, bubbly Broadway-style musical at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $15 each, $10 for students and seniors.
The show revolves around the romantic and dastardly plots of a cast of corny characters: evangelist-turned-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney (played by Jordan Sison); a lovesick stockbroker named Billy Crocker (Gunnar Wilson); Hope Harcourt (Quinn Dupre), a debutante who's the object of Billy's affection; and her fiance, the stuffy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (Michael Ramnath).
Their madcap adventures serve to showcase Cole Porter's many memorable tunes like Blow, Gabriel, Blow; You're the Top; It's De-Lovely; and of course the title song, Anything Goes, all performed by a 14-piece orchestra.
Charlie Rowell, 17, provides a boatload of laughs through his character, Moonface Martin, a.k.a. Public Enemy No. 13. He likes his role, he said, because "it got me out of the tap-dancing."
Along the way, though, he fell in love with Porter's Jazz Age sounds, saying the experience has broadened his musical horizons.
"I love his music — the lyrics are so clever. I listen to a lot more jazz now," he said.
Though Charlie may not be a fan of tap dancing, most of the sailors said they enjoyed learning the classic dance steps.
"I've always worked on the technical side, I didn't even audition," said Dakota Davy, 16, "but they said they needed another sailor so I thought I'd try it and see what happens."
The tap dancers put in some overtime at Tampa Bay's Dance FX in Largo, a studio directed by show choreographer Anne Marie Gaige. Her son Bryce, 10, performs a cameo tap in the show. It's the fifth time the young dancer has been involved in a production at Clearwater High.
It's the first time Joy Roche, the school's drama teacher for the past 25 years, has endeavored to put on the high-energy musical, which won a 2011 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical.
"I chose it because it's uplifting and a great escape from the problems of the world," she said. "Actually, Disney musicals and the oldies but goodies are what's popular on Broadway now. I think people just want to relax and have fun."
Roche said the show's big cast (60 students onstage) gives those who want to participate in the theater experience a chance.
"Between the cast, the orchestra, the support and technical roles, we probably have about 100 students involved — that's almost 10 percent of our student population."
She said students have learned a lot about the 1930s, especially Depression-era high society, as they researched costumes and the societal norms of the times.
"It's been a great history lesson for them all," she said.
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at [email protected].