Forest Grove High School's new musical 'Xanadu'
Forest Grove High School's latest show is literally rolling on to the big stage.
The school's fall musical, "Xanadu," is written from a book by Douglas Carter Beane, with music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. The musical comedy is based on the 1980s movie of the same title starring Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly.
It tells the story of a group of Greek muses that come to help and inspire a chalk artist named Sonny. The lead muse, Clio, disguises herself as an Australian named Kira to support Sonny's dream of opening a roller disco. Clio then begins to fall in love with Sonny, which is forbidden.
"Kids are kind of into the '80s now, and so it's kind of a fun thing for them to do," said Forest Grove High School drama director John Anderberg. "Also, they do roller skate at the end, so all the kids (are) on roller skates."
Anderberg admitted that the most challenging part of the show was teaching his students how to roller skate. In order to get them on board, he unleashed his inner child and bought a pair of skates for himself.
"I said, 'OK, if I'm asking you to do it, then I'll do it too," Anderberg said.
Most of the actors don't put on their skates until the end of the show, but senior Bailey Harris, who plays Clio, has to wear them for most of her performance.
"I want to say the roller skating was the hardest part, but I actually picked up on it pretty fast," Harris said. "The hardest part for me was actually switching from (an) American accent to Australian accent in one scene, and then switching from American, Australian, to Southern in another scene."
If accents and wheels weren't hard enough, Harris confessed the showtunes are no walk in the park, either.
"All the vocals that I'm doing are the same that Kerry Butler did on Broadway," added Harris. "We are 100 percent not changing anything. It's been rough, but I was ready to take on the challenge."
Harris has been singing and dancing since she was 5 years old. Now 17, she has performed at Theatre in the Grove and other places in the Portland area.
But nothing compares to performing at Forest Grove High School at least one last time before graduation, said Harris. She credits Anderberg for making the show an experience she'll never forget.
"When we had an idea, he listened to us," said Harris. "I have some self-esteem issues, as most high school girls do, (and) I was very worried about the tightness of (my) dress, but everyone here just made me feel so comfortable."
Harris hopes to one day teach theater in impoverished parts of New York City.
Anderberg, who graduated from Forest Grove High School, explained that he teaches his students professionalism early on so they can reach their dreams.
"We take it seriously," he said. "I tell them that professionalism isn't a paycheck, it's an attitude."
The cast is required to rehearse five days per week for three hours each day. But it's not all costumes and showtunes, said Anderberg.
"This year, I've expanded (rehearsals) so we can put in some of that educational part of it," he added. "They've been learning acting skills, acting styles, character development, those types of things."
Anderberg also coordinated for the cast to work perform with live music for each performance.
"I don't like pre-recorded music, and especially in a program where we have a music department, this is a good career for them to learn," Anderberg said. "That's a job that they can go out and tour with other theater companies, other ballet companies (and) dance companies."
He hopes the audience will walk away with newfound appreciation for high school theater.
"Sometimes people ... don't understand the (number) of hours, the dedication, the hard work, and how much it takes to put on a show," said Anderberg.
Forest Grove High School's "Xanadu" starts on Friday, Nov. 15-16 at 7 p.m., with more performances on Friday, Nov. 22-23 at 7 p.m. There will also be a matinee on Nov. 23 at 2 p.m.
Tickets for this performance are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and students, and $3 for children under 12. The school will also be accepting donations in support of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre.
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