The Music Arts Drama students swirled in their dresses in the Wood Street Centre hallway and they laughed at the newness of it.
Just a year ago, some of these same students laughed at the wild costumes from Seussical, which, really, is just another world that these actors created for the stage
This year, Grease is the world.
It is the world of Rydell High in the late 50s, an incubator of teenage angst and fun that is expressed in one catchy song after another, and popularized by the John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John film that was based on the record-setting Broadway play.
“It was after the war in a moment of prosperity,” says Addam Parsons, a Grade 11 student from Porter Creek Secondary School, who plays Kenickie. “There was peace, it was before Vietnam.
“People were happy about the 50s.”
Isabelle Stephens, a Grade 10 student from F.H. Collins School, says she loves the idea of performing in Grease – she will be Rizzo – because, “It’s about teenagers and we are teenagers … but in a different era.”
Stephens’ words made the scene from the hallway seem a little more surreal when you consider that the Wood Street Centre was built in 1957, just two years before the setting of this play. During dances, the hallways would have been filled with these same dresses when they really were new.
Jeff Nordlund, a MAD instructor, looks out into the hallway and points out that not all of the dresses are from the late-50s. Since Grease is told mostly in flashback, some of those dresses are from the 70s.
Whether it is the 50s or 70s, Nordlund says the themes from Grease resonate with the students: “The kids had to do some research and they found it interesting.
“Kids these days are texting and there are belonging issues and sexuality issues; these are issues then and now.”
Grease, the play, dealt with teenage pregnancy, gang violence, teenage rebellion, sexual exploration and class conflict.
Grease, the movie, skipped over much of this.
“Personally, it is not my favourite,” says Wren Hookey of the movie. The Grade 12 F.H. Collins student is the play’s student director and stage manager.
“I agree with you a little bit,” responded Calvin Laveck, a Grade 11 Porter Creek Secondary School student. “But it’s fun.”
“Yeah, it’s fun,” countered Hookey. “But it’s shallow.
“As actors, we want to put more behind the roles.”
Stephens wades in: “There are some less-shallow moments in the play; and teenagers today can be shallow.”
Parsons believes that the movie could be serious, at times, but then it pulls away to lighter fare.
“Keep it raw and teen,” growls Laveck.
They each agree that the play is better than the movie and that audiences will be surprised.
“People ask me how we’ll do the car race and I say, ‘There’s a car race?’,” says Parsons.
“The movie is all about Danny and Sandy,” says Stephens, “but the play isn’t.”
“What’s wrong with that?” says Laveck playfully (he has the lead role of Danny).
Stephens gives him a look and then continues, “In the movie, I didn’t even know [Marty] existed.
“They took the lines from Marty and gave it to Rizzo.”
The students were given 16 tickets each to sell for the play that begins June 3, and many of them were sold after a few days.
“Everyone is so excited,” said Laveck.
“But they have this huge expectation,” says Stephens, covering her face as she winces.
“People will be surprised,” says Parsons, reassuringly. “It’s a better version.”
And there is still the music that was written in the 70s as a tribute to the 50s, says Parsons.
“That’s what my parents remember,” says Laveck.
“They were so excited,” agreed Stephens.
“Mine said, ‘You should watch that’,” said Parsons.
“What did you think of it, Dad?” asked Hookey.
Grease will presented at 8 p.m., Wednesdays to Saturdays, until June 13. There is a 2 p.m. matinée on Saturday, June 6. Tickets are available from MAD students and at the Wood Street Centre office. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.