P.E.I. high school brings Grease to the stage

Sally
Sally Cole
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When director Richard Haines was looking for a musical for students at Charlottetown Rural High School, he wanted a winner.

His thoughts turned to Grease, the longest running musical in Broadway history. It became a movie in 1978, starring John Travolta Olivia Newton John and enjoyed a stage revival in Chicago in 2011.

“Grease is one of the big ones. We wanted to do a show that would excite our students and audiences. And Grease was the perfect choice for that. It’s one of the musicals that everyone knows about, even the kids who are living in a digital age,” says Haines, of the show which hits the boards of the Homburg Theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, May 8-10 at 8 p.m.

Filled with iconic characters and well-known songs, it’s the story of Danny Zuko, a working class high school greaser and Sandy Dumbrowski, an upper middle class girl, who have just spent a summer together in love.

Now, back at school, tension builds as Danny, leader of the T-Birds, ignores Sandy in front of his peers as well as the Pink Ladies, a girls’ clique.

“What makes it relevant is that the musical deals with peer pressure and other difficulties sometimes experienced by teens,” says Haines.

“There are also themes of rebellion, whether it’s expressed with a leather jacket or a (different) hairstyle that are just as relevant today as are issues of teen pregnancy.”

A central theme in the show is coming of age.

“As teenagers, kids are trying to break away from who their parents are and what society has told them they have to do in order to be successful or appropriate.”

For Alexandra Smith, who plays the sweet and innocent Sandy, this transition is challenging.

“In the first part of the show her character is a lot like my own personality. But when I change my costume in Act 2, all that changes,” says Alexandra, referring to the spandex-clad Sandy 2 who steps out to sing You’re the One That I Want to her boyfriend, Danny.

“It’s a bit difficult, but I’m working on it,” says the Grade 12 student, with a smile.

Aidan Gallant is also going through an inner journey to play the character of Danny.

“It’s a mental thing. You’ve got to think about the music back then and how they thought back then. And how people talked and walked.

“But once you’re on the stage you get into a groove. The costume definitely helps. It adds a little excitement to it,” says the Grade 11 student.

Julie Sauvé is adding excitement to the show with her choreography.

“I’ve had a ball. YouTube is a choreographer’s best friend. In my research I was able to cut and paste different styles into the show. You’ll see little snippets of twist, the swim, the monkey, the holly polly, the chirp, just to name a few.”

Watching the musical come to life onstage, (backed by a pit band orchestra, comprised of students and directed by Mark Parsons) the director is excited to share the winning show with others.

“(Audience members) are going to have an incredibly entertaining experience. They’re going to see musical numbers that have been ingrained in the collective consciousness for a very long time . . . .

“I also think people will be really amazed to see how much Grease is still the word with teenagers in 2014.”

AT A GLANCE

If you are going

What: Charlottetown Rural High School's production of Grease.

Where: Homburg Theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown.

When: May 8-10 at 8 p.m.

Tickets: Are available from the box office at 566-1267 or online at https://boxoffice.confederationcentre.com/online/

Organizations: Charlottetown Rural High School, Homburg Theatre of the Confederation Centre of the Arts, Pink Ladies

Geographic location: P.E.I., Broadway, Chicago Charlottetown Charlottetown.When

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