The Oakcrest High School Drama Club has, compared to its counterparts at the other schools that make up the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District, a surplus of girls and a shortage of dancers, which forces the group to tailor its catalogue to its makeup.

But when its best members join with those of Cedar Creek's Pirate Theater and Absegami's Emanon Players each summer as the districtwide collaborative New Millennium Production Company, the options are almost limitless. This summer, the group will perform the classic Broadway musical "Anything Goes."

Oakcrest senior Margaret Erickson, who plays the steward of the ship that serves as the musical's setting, said she has enjoyed the versatility offered by the combined troupe.

"(At Oakcrest) we kind of have one play we do," she said. "We never have a lot of guys, but there's more guys in Absegami. There's more dancers. Having them come and join us, it's very cool, because we kind of get a broader variety of cast members."

The New Millennium Production Company was formed in 1999 as a way to unite the district's schools under one banner, and is the only district program that includes students from all three schools.

The students have undergone strenuous, six-hour rehearsals twice per week for the past few weeks in preparation for the show, which runs Aug. 9-11 at Oakcrest.

"Anything Goes" focuses on a foursome of mismatched would-be lovers on board an ocean liner bound for London. Billy Crocker has stowed away in pursuit of engaged socialite Hope Harcourt, with whom he shared a single, fateful rendezvous shortly before the ship's departure. Reno Sweeney is a lovelorn evangelist turned nightclub singer, and Lord Evelyn Oakley is an English royal to whom Harcourt is betrothed.

The musical was written by Cole Porter, one of the pre-eminent names in 20th century musical theater. It incorporates a lot of jazz and tap dancing, making for a fun departure from what the schools have done in recent years, said Oakcrest drama teacher Kim Tunney.

"We haven't really done a classic Broadway show for a while in the summer," said Tunney, who co-directed the production with Absegami's Chip Garrison and Cedar Creek's Matt Ballistreri. "It's kind of nice to go back to the roots."

Because of its rigorous schedule and its taking place during the summer, the group tends to attract only the most dedicated members of the respective schools' drama departments.

Not only does this mean the talent level of the cast is often higher than that of the individual troupes from which it draws, it also gives the members an opportunity to meet new friends who are as nuts about the stage as they are, said Oakcrest junior Tom Smith.

"It's a great way to meet new people, and they're all just really talented," said Smith, who plays Crocker's Wall Street banker boss, Elisha J. Whitney.

The three district schools often meet in competition on the field and on the court, but it's only for a few weeks in the summer that they come together in collaboration.

In doing so, the students have made a production that is more than merely the sum of its parts, and that, Tunney said, is something to be celebrated.

"I think that's such a unique thing for us, that we go to see each other's plays and now we're supportive of each other," Tunney said. "I think it's just a really nice blend of the district that can bring us together as a family."

Contact Braden Campbell:


If you go

What: 'Anything Goes,' presented by the New Millennium Production Company

When: 7 p.m. Aug. 9-11

Where: Oakcrest High School Auditorium, 1824 Dr. Dennis Foreman Drive, Mays Landing

How much: $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors

More info: Call 609-909-2603

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