“Grease,” a 1971 musical adapted into the famous 1978 movie will take Holliston High School’s stage November 16th, 17th, and 18th.
“Everyone’s seen ‘Grease,’ it’s a classic. But I want people to see our version because it’s different than what everyone knows from the movie; there’s more to it. It’s a very interesting story,” said junior Jane Daly who plays Rizzo.
The production differs from the movie, adding in some songs and characters while taking out others. The iconic finale number found in the movie “You’re the One That I Want” is replaced with “All Choked Up,” a song director Ms. Courtney Bottomley prefers.
The movie is known for its leading characters Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski, the pair who are just supported by the other characters, a difference from the stage version.
“This production of ‘Grease’ is really well rounded compared to the movie… in the move it’s just John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John with little spurts of Rizzo in it, but the musical really takes time to build characters that you like… It’s less Disney Channel, it’s more real,” said senior Viraj Shriwardhankar who plays Kenickie.
The production is set up to allow character development, allowing cast members to put their own twist on the characters they’re playing.
“I think that whenever Kenickie gets played he gets put into this place where he’s only angry all the time. I want to show him being more vulnerable because in the group, he’s sort of the guy who’s kind of cold and distant because he gets made fun of a lot. There [aren’t] a lot of lines directed at Kenickie that [aren’t] making fun of him so I think that if I add sort of that depth to it, it would be really cool,” said Shriwardhankar.
As the show aims to parody the 1950s, characters are not made to be taken solely at face value and are meant to bring bigger messages to light.
“In the movie it’s kind of like Sandy changes for Danny but hopefully we can get across that in the end they’re both kind of changing for each other but then since they both change for each other they realize they don’t have to change at all,” said senior Amanda Willis who plays Sandy.
Characters are compared to one another throughout the production, however, the audience doesn’t always see how an actor compares to their character. According to Ms. Bottomley, senior Katie Murphy, who plays Ms. Lynch is least like her character in the cast. Ms. Lynch is an old English teacher who is uptight, a contrast to Murphy’s personality.
“Katie’s a doll. She’s so fun, and she’s funny, and that’s why she got the role too because she had the comic timing to play this very staunch character. We threw in a couple of humorous moments for her but she’s probably the least like Ms. Lynch out of anybody,” said Ms. Bottomley.
A live, on-stage version of this classic high school story provides opportunities to incorporate new and exciting elements.
“It’s a fun show, we have all kinds of craziness that happens, we’ve got fight scenes, we’ve got dance scenes, we’ve got a car that comes on stage,” explained Ms. Bottomley.
Dance scenes for those who are not dancers can be nerve wracking but Ms. Bottomley and dance captains, senior Michaela Michelli and sophomore Sophie Campbell choreograph them so they are at the cast’s comfort level.
Cues, lights, and dance numbers all share a fundamental base: timing. Timing also plays an integral part in the delivery of specific lines so they hit the audience just right.
Senior Andrew Balestieri plays Roger, a true jokester who is always after a laugh. Roger is matched with Jan, played by Julia Giusti-Kizik, a confident girl with her girlfriends yet timid around the boys.
“I have never had [Balestieri and Giusti-Kizik] play opposite each other before; but, individually, I know that they have great [comic] timing so I’m interested to see how that develops and how much they can start playing off of each other,” said Ms. Bottomley.
One of Ms. Bottomley’s goals with the ensemble is to “make sure the life is really there” and she can accurately capture a school setting.
“We do have fifty kids that are up on stage doing the show, [and] because of the structure of the show I want to make sure that they always have enough stage time. So with some of the longer dance scenes, I like to make sure that the ensemble has their own characters.”
The ensemble members each play a character, allowing the atmosphere of scenes to be realistic.
“They’re supposed to be at school and it’s not just an empty school, things are happening in the background,” said Ms. Bottomley.
While memorizing lines and rehearsing dances can be a toilsome task, upperclassmen also have responsibilities off stage.
“We have to be the role models for the rest of the cast. You can’t goof around because you’re setting the tone for the rest of the cast which is actually a really big responsibility that a lot of people don’t realize… You are not just lead, you are a leader,” explained Berg.
Freshman Joey Majkut, who plays Doody looks up to the upperclassmen and enjoys the comfortable atmosphere they provide to the theatre program.
“I’m learning so much from the upperclassmen right now … and they really make it fun,” said Majkut.
Through rehearsals and cast events, the upperclassman pass lessons on to the underclassmen that they learned as younger actors. Through the performances, the cast as one hopes to pass on a message to the audience.
“Every now and then you sneak a little bit of a moral in there. And that really comes the end of the show… about expectations that other people have of you and how to accept them or shed them and be your best version of yourself,” said Ms. Bottomley.