With a 53-member cast filled with talented actors/actresses, singers and dancers, the New Paltz High School (NPHS)’s spring musical theatre production, Grease, is poised to have the audience laughing and dancing in the aisles.
According to longtime NPHS musical director Nancy Owen, Grease was selected by NPHS choir director Nicole Ferrante. “Nicole has been doing the musicals with me for three years, and I chose the last two, so I thought it was only fair to let her choose this year,” said Owen. “Grease is one of her favorite musicals, and the kids are crazy about it. They absolutely love it!”
Asked what makes the 1972 musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey — turned into a blockbuster film in 1978 starring John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and Stockard Channing — so enduring and popular today, Owen said, “It’s that 1950s era! Some of the characters are rough, some are exaggerated; but they’re endearing. I think our cast gets to unleash a part of themselves in these characters. We were even joking the other day at rehearsal that many of them are becoming their characters!”
The musical, set in 1959 at the fictional Rydell High School, follows several working-class and upper-class children who are trying to navigate their way through the complexities of adolescence and love. It tackles many subjects including gang violence, friendship, teenage rebellion and class-consciousness and all centered around a love story between “greaser” Danny Zucco and good-girl Sandy Olsen.
Owen said that they chose not to utilize the high school rendition of the play because it “had some incredibly corny dialogue, eliminated one of Rizzo’s great songs and just watered it down too much.” That said, she and Ferrante did make changes where there was foul language and inappropriate innuendos.
Asked what the audience will enjoy about this particular musical performance, Owen responded, “That it’s such a strong, talented cast. Of all the casts I’ve had the pleasure of directing, this is among the most talented. Their enthusiasm is incredible, their singing ability so strong, and they’re going to carry people away.” Part of the cast did a preview of the play at Woodland Pond this past Friday, and Owen said that the “response was amazing.”
Those playing some of the lead roles include senior Seth Roberts, who will star as Danny Zucco, along with senior Allison Albrecht, who will play Sandy. Junior Elaziah Pollard will play the coveted role of Rizzo and junior Kole Brownstein will be T-Bird Kenickie. Senior Aliyah Cohn will play the beauty-school dropout Frenchy and Gabe Gaston will portray Sonny. Junior Liz Corey will play Jan and ninth-grader Jeremy Brownstein will be Roger. Senior Evan Pallor will portray the nerdy valedictorian Eugene.
In addition to the 53-member cast, there are at least another dozen students who are working on scenery and lighting, and still more who will come in to help do hair and makeup and run the concession. “Everyone really comes together to ensure that we have the best production possible,” she said.
Ferrante is the musical director, Kate Weston is the choreographer and Karen Morehouse is Owen’s assistant director.
The play will open on Thursday evening, March 21, with 7:30 showings that Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23. There will also be a matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday. General admission tickets cost $12. Tickets for seniors and students will cost $10, except for opening night and the matinee, when those tickets will go for $8. To make reservations, call the box office at 256-4111.