Pleasanton high school actors and musicians are donning flappers' caps and rosining their bows for their annual musical extravaganza, this year taking on the 1920s-set classic of "Thoroughly Modern Millie."
The high school musical every year is a large-scale production that combines the theater and music departments at Amador Valley and Foothill. And it's one of the few events during which the two rival schools collaborate, said Mark Aubel, the show's producer and musical director, who first came to Amador's theater department in 1986.
"It's something we should do more of," Aubel said.
The opening show takes place this Friday, and it will run for two weekends. All performances will be held in the Amador Theater.
The musicals involve many moving parts, from the live student orchestra to the singing to the acting to the dancing. "That's what makes it so exciting," Aubel said.
This is the second time they've done "Millie," the first being about nine years ago.
"Thoroughly Modern Millie" is the tale of Millie, a small-town girl from Kansas who comes to New York City in the 1920s, determined to be a "modern woman"-- and marry her wealthy boss rather than searching for love. Amidst various subplots (including kidnappings and a human trafficking ring), her original plans are somewhat thwarted when she falls in love with Jimmy Smith, a "skirt-chasing" paperclip salesman.
Performing a show that takes place in the '20s meant learning some new, unfamiliar skills for the actors-- in particular, tap dancing.
"They've really risen to the challenge of the era piece," Aubel said.
Auditions for the show were held in December, with rehearsals beginning in January-- with both high schools practicing together from the start. The lead roles are each performed by two different student actors, who will trade off playing the characters over the course of the show run.
This was the first musical for Michael Steele, an Amador sophomore who is one of the two actors portraying Jimmy.
He's a little nervous for the show, but said that it's been a great first experience, especially working with his co-Jimmy, Eric Jensen.
"He's kind of shown me the way," Steele said.
And the ladies man character with a "soft spot for real love" has been more fun to play than he originally thought, he added.
Steele's co-lead Lilly Kelly is a senior at Foothill. This is her fourth (and last) PUSD musical, and so her casting as the title character is especially poignant.
She admires the strong-willed Millie for her determination yet willingness to follow her heart in the end.
"I aspire to be like her," she said.
For Kelly, performing has been a formative part of her high school years, and one that even made it into college application essays.
"As a whole, doing musicals has been one of the best experiences of my high school career," Kelly said.
The performances will take place this Friday through Sunday and March 16-18, with Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. in the Amador Theater, 1155 Santa Rita Road. Tickets cost $15 and are available on the Firehouse Arts Center's website at www.firehousearts.org.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story listed incorrect performance times for the "Thoroughly Modern Millie" shows. The correct times are now included. The Pleasanton Weekly regrets the error.