Malibu High School to present ’42nd Street’

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Few of the cast of "42nd Street," opening June 9, ever tap danced before, or danced in a group performance. A special pre-performance party will take place prior to the show.

Director Jodi Plaia and the Drama Department at Malibu High School present the Broadway musical “42nd Street,” opening with a gala premiere and party to benefit the Shark Fund on June 9, with additional performances on June 10, 11 and 12 at 7 p.m. and on June 13 at 2 p.m. in the school auditorium.

In mounting this spring musical, Plaia faced two dilemmas: how to follow last year’s widely-praised production of “Les Miserables,” and how to take a cast of 30 students who’d never tap danced before and turn them into believable Broadway gypsies in only four months.

To turn high schoolers into hoofers, Plaia turned to Betsy Melber the director of the Agoura Hills Dance and Performing Arts Center, who spent four days a week teaching intricate routines to the cast and chorus. Few of the students had any training in tap at all, and none had ever danced together as a group before.

Working with Plaia, Melber choreographed the eight dances in “42nd Street,” including such old favorites as “We’re In The Money,” “Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” and, of course, the title song.

Like all MHS shows, “42nd Street” has been a collaboration between the different divisions of MHS’ fine arts departments. Plaia and the cast worked with choral director Irene Messoloras on the show’s classic Harry Warren tunes. Instrumental music director Bill Bixler, pianist Joellen Friedkin, and the talented members of the school’s jazz band will be found in the pit at each performance providing live accompaniment to the singers. And senior Tyrus Emory and the school’s Technicum Theatricum club worked with Plaia to design the lighting and lend their technical expertise to the production.

With its emphasis on dance, its period sets and costumes, the classic score of Depression-era songs, and a talented cast and crew, “42nd Street” is the most elaborate production ever attempted by MHS.

As Plaia says, “Come and see those dancing feet.”

Tickets for the opening night gala are $250 and $100, and can be purchased on the school’s Web site, malibuhigh.smmusd.org, or by calling 310.881.8107. Tickets for the remaining performances are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors, and can either be purchased online or at the box office after school.

The high school is located at 30215 Morning View Drive.