Was it hard for Aberdeen Central junior Brodigan Morton to grow sideburns for his role in “Grease”?
“It was a lot of work, a lot of upkeep, a lot of dealing with the harassment of classmates and whatnot, but totally worth it,” Brodigan said, smiling.
Brodigan, who plays Keneckie, is one of 40 Central students who have journeyed to the 1950s for “Grease,” which opens tonight. The girls wear long, pleated skirts as they dance around an old DeSoto, in the center of the Thomas F. Kelly Theatre stage. Brodigan and the other four Central students who play members of the greasers have dyed their hair, to which they apply plenty of gel and Brylcreem.
The students engage in lots of high-energy dancing. Their endurance is tested right after intermission. The full cast takes part in “Born to Hand Jive,” which is early in the second act. That is followed shortly thereafter by “Shakin’ at the High School Hop.”
Choreographer Kyle Stugelmayer also keeps the students busy during “Greased Lightning.” During that dance number, Stugelmayer takes full advantage of the shiny DeSoto. He has kids jumping on it, jumping off it, rolling off of it and everything else he can imagine. “It's a lot of crazy energy,” Stugelmayer said.
“The dancing is amazing,” said Rachel Klein, who plays Rizzo. “I'd say that’s my favorite part.”
The dancing is different from today's footwork in that a lot more planning goes into it, Rachel said. The music is danceable, said Rachel, who likes the flips and lifts.
Aberdeen Central seniors were born around 1995. Those students have noticed that people talked differently in the 1950s. There's “a lot of 'whatcha doing',” Rachel said. Her favorite fashion element is high-waisted pants. The Central costumers, she said, have done a good job.
Ashley Farrand, who plays Sandy, also likes the music and the dancing. The 1950s are very different from today and a fun time period to inhabit, she said. She also likes how the characters change and grow throughout the musical.
Audiences will enjoy the show's high energy and the characters, Ashley said. People will be especially taken with the boys, “and how goofy they are throughout the whole show,” Ashley said.
One of the boys is Nick Brandt, who plays Danny Zuko, the head of the greasers. Playing that is challenging because he's one of the most iconic characters in theater, Nick said. “But it's been great. I love the show.”
Danny is “such a big character.” Because he's the leader of the five greasers, “he has to be over the top in everything,” Nick said.
The dancing is challenging physically and mentally. And while he does it, he has to remain in character. But Nick has been in show choir for six years, which helps a lot.
Rachel said playing Rizzo is a lot of fun because she has several dimensions. She “has kind of a bad girl persona,” and she's also guarded. In addition, she has a soft side to her.
One of the ensemble chorus members is Nellie Petersen, a 17-year-old foreign exchange student from Hernind, Denmark. This is her third play at Central. Being in a play, she said, is a great way to make friends.
For its spring musical, Central wanted a production that had a lot of strong male and female leads, said director Roger McCafferty. Five males and five females were needed to sing either solos or duets in “Grease,” McCafferty said.
In choosing the musical, McCafferty gave a lot of input to assistant director Joselyn Schmitz, who is leaving Central after eight years.
Schmitz, a special ed teacher, recommended “Grease” “because I love it. I love the music. I can pretty much recite the movie line by line,” she said.
The original “Grease” would have been a little too mature for a school play, McCafferty said. But the original playwrights, Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, made changes to the show to make it acceptable for schools. Language issues have been removed, and smoking and drinking have been downplayed. But they “still kept the whole flair of the show,” McCafferty said. It's “just as much fun” as the original, he said.
In some productions of “Grease,” the hoods are known as the T-Birds. In others, including this one, the young men are Burger Palace Boys.