Broadway pros work behind the scenes for P.K. Yonge’s production of ‘Anything Goes’

Administrators at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School may not have known it, but they got more than one person when they hired Michael Cundari to take over the school’s performing […]


February 28, 2014



Michael Cundari (above) leads rehearsals for the upcoming Anything Goes performance at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School

Administrators at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School may not have known it, but they got more than one person when they hired Michael Cundari to take over the school’s performing arts program last year.

Cundari, a Nutley, N.J., native whose list of performances as a high school music director could double as an international travel brochure, has tapped into a network of friends and colleagues on and off Broadway to provide enhanced instruction and set design for his first production at the Gainesville school.

Eight performances of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes have been scheduled for the P.K. Yonge Performing Arts Center, beginning at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 14. Complete schedule and ticket information can be found online at

Anything Goes is a fast-paced musical that combines the classic show tunes “Anything Goes” and “I Get a Kick Out of You” with tap dancing, cheesy jokes, a love triangle and a bit of blackmail.

The action takes place aboard the SS American, an ocean liner en route from New York to England. Onboard is nightclub singer and evangelist Reno Sweeney and her stowaway friend, Billy Crocker, who is in pursuit of Hope Harcourt, the love of his life who happens to be engaged to the wealthy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh.

Adding to the mix are Moonface Martin, aka Public Enemy No. 13, and Erma, his sidekick-in-crime. Using disguises, tap-dancing sailors and trickery, Reno and Martin scheme to help Billy in his quest to win Hope’s heart.

Cundari knew he had his work cut out when he chose the two-act play as his debut production.

“It’s definitely a challenge because of the constant movement, the delicate timing and the intricate dance numbers,” he said. “But I’m most concerned with the educational process of discovering a musical and all of the educational and life-serving attributes involved.

“It’s not just to put on a show,” Cundari added. “It’s to teach technique, time management and interpersonal skills – and to embrace culture and just teach students how to be better people.”

So far it’s mission accomplished, based on reports offered by Cundari’s colleagues, all of whom traveled from New York to help prepare the 50-member cast.

“Most of the kids had never worn tap shoes, but they caught on quickly,” said Elliott Bradley, a dance instructor who Cundari met through a mutual friend.

Bradley, who spent four seasons performing with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall during the famed dance troupe’s annual Christmas special, says he has been impressed with virtually every cast member’s ability to catch on quickly.

“They learned all the basics in three days when I was down here in September,” Bradley said. “And they retained what they learned when I came back in January.

“I can tell you this,” he added with a wry smile. “There are no shy kids onstage. They’re all doing really, really well.”

Justin Gomlak, who Cundari also met through a mutual friend, has been equally impressed.

“It’s a pleasure working with students who are so open to guidance,” said Gomlak, a Broadway actor and drama teacher at The Dalton School in New York City. “They absorb every bit of the guidance I offer.”

Cundari says he also is grateful to the dozen volunteers who showed up to build an elaborate stage setting under the direction of James Gardner, a professional set designer who also came down from New York. Gardner is the father of two of Cundari’s former students.

Cundari served as director of secondary choral activities, director of the Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and music coordinator for the Nutley public school system before coming to P.K. Yonge. His ensembles participated in three command performances for New Jersey governors, and received numerous invitations, including a Palm Sunday performance at the National Basilica in Washington D.C., and a concert aboard the U.S.S. Missouri in Pearl Harbor, Hi.

Cundari also conducted high school choral group performances at Carnegie Hall and at prestigious venues throughout England, Italy and Austria. 

“After 15 years of heading so many successful programs in New Jersey, I just needed a change,” he said of his decision to relocate. “I’m looking forward to using what I’ve learned and experienced to create some fine performances and wonderful memories here in Gainesville.”

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