Oakdale native Colleen Hawks-Pierce has been in three Broadway shows in New York City but she says there's still nothing like home.
She was delighted to be offered the starring role of evangelist-turned-nightclub singer Reno Sweeney in Modesto Performing Arts' musical production of "Anything Goes," running June 30 through July 8 at the Gallo Center for the Arts.
"It's so enjoyable to touch base and spend time with my family," she said before a recent rehearsal.
On Broadway, Hawks-Pierce has played several roles, including the Fairy Godmother in 2009's "Shrek the Musical." Before that, she was one of Hugh Jackman's three backup singers in 2003's "The Boy From Oz" and she understudied for DeLee Lively in "Smokey Joe's Café" in 1999.
This is her second time appearing in a Modesto Performing Arts production. Her first was 2002's "Oklahoma," in which she starred as Laurey. That show is special to her because it's where she met her future husband Jeff Pierce, who co-starred as Curly.
"Anything Goes" centers on wild antics aboard an ocean liner traveling from New York to London. Cole Porter wrote the score, which includes such hits as "It's DeLovely," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You're the Top," "Blow, Gabriel, Blow" and the title song. It's known for its extensive tap dancing.
The show debuted on Broadway in 1934 and was made into two movies a 1936 version starring Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby and a 1956 version, also starring Crosby. Modesto Performing Arts is presenting an updated 1980s version.
"It's a Cole Porter classic," Hawks-Pierce said. "It has stood the test of time. It's really funny. Everybody's going to recognize the music and want to sing along."
Hawks-Pierce will be joined by a cast of nearly 50 and a 15-piece orchestra. The show kicks off Modesto Performing Arts' 45th summer season.
Director Paul Tischer said he chose the show in part because it's one of the rare musicals he never has worked on. He thought audiences would enjoy the tap dancing, which will be choreographed by sisters Holly and Heather Bettencourt, who own Strut Dance Studio.
He selected New York actor Charles Osborne from 25 actors to play the comic male lead, Billy Crocker. Tischer was impressed by Osborne's video audition, in which he sang and danced to songs from the show.
Osborne, a native of Charlotte, N.C., and recent graduate of North Carolina School of the Arts, said he always has wanted to play Billy. The character is charismatic and charming and is a skirt chaser who finally falls in love. He wears many disguises throughout the show in order to manipulate others on the ship. "Nothing is off-limits to Billy to get what he wants," Osborne said.
Hawks-Pierce said Osborne is brilliant in the role and is funnier than the actor in a current revival of the musical on Broadway. She added that the rest of the cast is good, too, and that she's always impressed with the talent Tischer gets for his shows.
She feels grateful that Tischer and others like him in the area have provided performing-arts opportunities for local artists.
"Growing up, I feel like I had outstanding teachers in the arts in this little town," she said.
While in town, Hawks-Pierce also will appear in The Dance Factory's production of "Love 2 Dance" today and Saturday at Modesto Junior College's main auditorium. Read the adjoining page for details.
WHAT: Modesto Performing Arts' "Anything Goes"
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. June 30, 2 p.m. July 1-2, 7:30 p.m. July 7 and 2 p.m. July 8
WHERE: Foster Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 338-2100