‘Grease’ opens Jan. 31 on WS Theatre stage
NEWMAN – The classic musical “Grease” will come to life on the West Side Theatre stage beginning Jan. 31, when Newman-Crows Landing students present the 1950s-era tale of high school experiences, challenges and transitions.
“This is the original high school musical, with all those fun songs, great songs,” explained director Hardy Reeves Jr. “This is a story that speaks to all ages. It really is timeless. I think of ‘Grease’ as high school in a nutshell.”
Reeves said a talented cast has risen to the challenges of performing “Grease,” which will stay true to the original 1978 version rather than the more modernistic version which followed.
An abundance of male talent made the selection of “Grease” as the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District Musical Theatre Department’s annual production possible, Reeves noted.
“We usually only had one or two boys, but this year we had seven or eight who really wanted to be in the play this year, and I wanted to showcase their talents as well,” Reeves explained. “They have been able to pull off those characters in ‘Grease’.”
But the student involvement has extended to other areas as well.
“We have had students step up and ask if they can help with the choreography and other aspects. We have students helping each other learn lines and helping get the dances down. Students have taken ownership of this show, and they have not backed down from any challenges,” Reeves commented.
For the performers, landing a role in “Grease” also meant stepping back five decades in time to portray teens of a different era through both dress and mannerism.
“They look at us like we’re insane when we hand them their costumes,” Reeves acknowledged, “but they are getting into it. They are living the characters.”
The growing pains reflected in “Grease” are no different than those facing today’s teens, Reeves points out.
Under-age drinking and smoking, as well as a pregnancy scare, are all reflected in the story line.
“We did not tone it down,” Reeves explained. “If taking out the Rizzo character possibly being pregnant would have changed that character and totally changed that scene.”
Reeves said the response to the production was so great that characters were added to give more students the opportunity to shine on stage.
The drama department faces added challenges this year with the loss of funding through the now-discontinued Orestimba after-school program.
To help compensate for that, the department is opening with a special opening night dinner production which includes a ‘50s-style meal of cheeseburger, fries, macaroni salad and root beer float in a souvenir “Grease” mug.
The department has also been involved in other fund-raising efforts, and trying to keep costs down wherever they can.
“My goal is to never have to charge to do this,” said Reeves, adding what while he was in high school a $35 costume fee was charged. “I don’t want cost to hinder a student’s ability to get up on stage and perform.”
The performing arts, Reeves added, are an important part of the overall high school experience.
“There are so many students who are quiet in class, who aren’t football stars. But give them a microphone and a song and a dance, and they are out there shining,” reflected Reeves, who is a 1996 Orestimba graduate. “This is about letting students have an outlet for their creativity, and the joy of performing. They put their heart and soul out on that stage every night.”
Tyler Velarde, portraying Danny, and Jasmine Miller, playing the role of Sandy, lead the cast of “Grease” characters.
The cast also includes Courtney Holt, Ashlee DeMerritt, Samantha Corgiat, Yaya Muñoz, Julie Roberts, Courtney Mendonca, Alex Banks, Tristan Rivera, Mason Eddington, Arther Arroyo, Wesley Vasquez, Josémiguel Garcia, Alicia Rodriguez, Bailey Vasquez, Gabriel Muñoz, Emanuel Bautista, Jaidah Allen, Jaclynn Collins, Justiana Martins, Eric Rodriguez, Aja Loo and Hailey Kinimaka.
In addition, a group of students known as the “Grease Spots,” will perform prior to the show and at intermission. They include Dylan Roberts, Abram Davis, Rebecca Mendoza, Keyaira Variste, Alina Eckstein, Desiree Rodriguez, Zoe Muñoz and Kali Reeves.
David Clark is the musical director for the production, Coral Muñoz is the stage manager, Loo is the assistant choreographer, Joyce Velarde is in charge of the ‘50s-style hair and YaYa Muñoz is the dance captain.
“Grease” opens with the dinner presentation Friday, Jan. 31. Tickets are $30, with seating limited to 100.
Additional performance dates are Feb. 1 (2 and 7 p.m.), Feb. 7 and 8 (7 p.m.) and Feb. 9 (2 p.m.).
Reserved seats are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors 65 and older. General admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.
Tickets are available at Hair Krazy or by calling 862-0909.