'Grease' at AHS

Danny, Sandy, Rizzo, Kenickee, Frenchy, Roger — the gang's all here.

The story of these 1950s Rydell High School seniors will unfold in Ashland High School's production of "Grease." The show runs at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays for the next three weekends at the Mountain Avenue Theater, 201 S. Mountain Ave., Ashland. There will be a matinee at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 7, and Sunday, March 13. The Saturday, Feb. 27, performance will be a fundraiser for Haiti.

Written in the early 1970s by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, "Grease" typifies the manners, morals, attire and music of teenagers at the beginning of the rock 'n' roll era.

The show takes place at Rydell High School where the rambunctious T-Birds, led by greaser Danny Zuko, and their sassy female equivalents, the "Pink Ladies," are seniors. When a new girl and summer sweetheart of Danny's, Sandy, arrives on campus, the Pink Ladies take it upon themselves to introduce her to the wiles of Rydell teenage life and its boys.

The AHS production is directed by OSF actress Christine Williams and choreographer Suzanne Sieber and produced by AHS's drama teacher Betsy Bishop.

The original musical written by Jacobs and Casey in 1972 was more gritty and controversial than the 1978 movie starring John Travolta (Danny) and Olivia Newton-John (Sandy), said Williams. The musical addressed teen issues such as teen pregnancy, rebelliousness, drugs and alcohol, cliques, dropouts and gangs.

"It has to do with what teenagers are going through, and we're amazed that this piece, written 30 years ago, is dealing with some of the same issues facing teens today," Williams said.

After the film was released, junior versions of the production came out that had been toned down and geared at a younger audience.

Sieber and Williams spent nearly a week perusing the junior version removing excess and adding elements that were vital to the depth and reality of the story line as well as adding songs from the movie.

"There's this gritty underlayer with it and with these great songs and dances," Williams said.

The AHS production will feature many of the smash hits made popular by the Broadway production and film, including Danny's solo, "Sandy;" the all-male number, "Greased Lightening;" "Hopelessly Devoted to You;" "You're the One that I Want;" "Summer Nights;" and "Beauty School Dropout," sung by Zach Bohanna, as Frankie Avalon, and accompanied by 12 "angels."

Nearly 80 AHS students are involved in this performance, including a 36-student cast.

Williams said directing this show has been a hoot, especially working with so many students, fun songs, hand jives and high-energy choreography.

AHS's production of "Grease" stars Amelia Farber as Sandy, Nick McKernan as Danny Zuko, Braedon Bell as Doody, Drew Starmer as Roger, Tay Smith as Kenickee, Zeke Smith as Sonny, Mason McClellen as Joe and Preston Swanson as Sal. The Pink Ladies in the cast are Clementine Von Radics as Rizzo, Jazmine Dake as Frenchy, Aurelia Grierson as Marty, Derrien Burns as Jan, Natalie Edson as Carmen and Ellie Von Radics as Vicky.

"I've loved that some of the ensemble have created real characters for themselves that add such richness and depth to the whole scene," Williams said.

In the scene of the dance contest, Williams said the whole cast will be on stage dancing and hand jiving — in a whirlwind of poodle skirts — to "Shakin' at the High School Hop."

She told the students that when the slick Vince Fontaine (played by Ford Murawski-Brown) comes on the scene to act as if Johnny Depp had just stepped on stage. "They took that direction and really ran with it," she said.

Other helping hands in the show include the music director, Holly Johnson, set designer Doug Ham, set builder David Pedersen, light designer Bart Grady and stage manager Rocky Garcia, an AHS senior. OSF costume designer Emily Erlich-Inget Grady assembled many of the costumes, which were rented from OSF.

"It's a total rock 'n' roll romp," Williams said. "It's like it pays homage to what we think of as the restless rock 'n' roll rebel... and these guys are it."

AHS will present its final school production of the school year, "The Importance of Being Earnest," this spring.

Tickets to the school's "Grease" performance are $15; $10 for students and seniors and $20 for reserved seating. Tickets are available in advance at Paddington Station, 125 E. Main St.; Tree House Books, 15 N. Main St.; and the Music Coop, 181 A St., Ashland and online at www.showtix4u.com.

For more information, call 541-482-8771.

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