By Elena Stuart
“You’ll leave smiling and you’ll leave humming the music,” Director Deborah Shaw said about the upcoming musical production of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” at City College.
The play is set in 1934 on the fictitious U.S.S. American and has a whimsical elegance portraying the “glossy, glamorous” and “art deco” essence of the zeitgeist that Shaw aims to capture. “It’s that sort of Ginger Rogers Fred Astaire kind of feel.”
Clearly an experienced performer Shaw nearly acted out the entire script from behind her desk. Her office walls were filled with posters of past productions.
“There are lots of mistaken identities. Everyone is trying to pretend to be what they’re not,” Shaw said with vivid gesturing and lively eyes.
“It’s hilarious,” Shaw said describing the character Moonface Martin. “He’s not public enemy number one he’s public enemy number thirteen!”
The lively director had no interest in making a political statement with the musical.
“In this interesting political climate sometimes you just want something fun,” she said while laughing, “ to take you away for a few hours and not have to deal with reality, if you will.”
Cole Porter was a prominent lyricist and composer in the 1930s.
“He’s a biggie,” Shaw said “it’s beautifully written.” She did admit that the script had to be mildly edited. “There are some offensive Asian stereotypes that I have taken out.”
Shaw is choreographing the dance numbers herself, including a tap dance piece, while the show’s music director is City College instructor Michael Shahani.
Shahani and Shaw began working at City College around the same time and have created many shows together. “It’s a lot of fun working together,” Shaw said. “We’re like an old married couple.”
A Bay Area native Shaw came to City College as a student teacher in 1987.
“I got my masters and teaching credential at SF State,” she said. “ I had to do student teaching, for the credential, and I did it here.”
Afterwards former Theater Arts Department Chair, Donald Cate, asked Shaw to stay. “I’ve kind of been here ever since,” Shaw said with a shoulder shrug and a smile. Since then she has put on 30 plays in her 30 years at City College and is planning to do many more.
Aside from teaching and directing at City College she has been active within the acting community. “I’ve been a performer for many years,” said Shaw who just finished a show at the Phoenix Theatre on Mason Street.
“It’s good to get back to performance,” Shaw said “just to make sure we don’t stagnate.”
Shaw was cast as the ingenue in “Anything Goes” her senior year of college. “Now I get to put my spin on it.”
Shaw describes her cast of about 30 people as a “gambit of new and experienced actors” among them many City College students, as well as Equity actor Sean Grady. “It’s a lot of fun but it’s a lot of work. It’s blood, sweat and tears,” Shaw said.
She added: “We have a limited budget and a small theater but we manage to put together some really amazing productions. The staff is fabulous. The Music Department Chair Madeline Mueller… believes in us and really allows us to do great things.”
“Anything Goes” goes live on Apr. 14, 15 and 21 at 8 p.m., and Apr. 16 and 23 at 2 p.m. in the Diego Riviera Theatre. General admission is $15, students and seniors pay $10.