Grease is the word…
Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / April 16, 1998
DESTREHAN – After all these years, “Grease” is still the word.
The production about life at Rydell High School in the 1950s is as hot today as it was the first time it was performed. The second-mostperformed play in schools after “Our Town,” interest in the production is on the rise again with the release of the hit movie on its 20th anniversary.
Local fans of the art will get an opportunity to relive the 1950s as students at Destrehan High School put on a production of the play this weekend in the school’s auditorium. Danny, Sandy, Frenchy, Rizzo, Kenickie- they are all here, along with the hit songs like “Hopelessly Devoted” and “Summer Nights.”Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Ticketsare $6 for adults, $5 for students, faculty, staff and senior citizens and $3 for children under 12. Tickets may be purchased at the school, fromchorus director Barbara Moras or any cast member or at the door before each performance.
Moras said it was just a fortunate coincidence that the play is being performed at the same time the movie is being re-released. She saidstudents have been asking her for three years to do a production of “Grease.””It was a good time to do it with the 20th anniversary, but I didn’t plan it that way,” Moras said. “It was good it happened that way because the kidsare more excited about it.”Moras said she has been working on the play for over a year. The firstthing she had to do was get the rights to do the play from a company in New York. Auditions then had to be held with rehearsals beginning beforethe Mardi Gras break. Moras has also had to compete with otherextracurricular activities for the students’ time.
Besides directing the play, Moras also acts in the play. Helping her out aretwo student choreographers, Ashley Haydel and Shannon St. Pierre, as wellas other students who help out with props and costumes. The school’s shopclass also chipped in by building the set. For the music, Moras is havingprofessional musicians come in to play every show.
Moras said she thinks “Grease” is still popular after all these years because the music is fun and the students can be silly.
“The characters just typify the high school kids from that period,” she said. “It bridges the gap between the generations.”Moras said the music is what sold her in the play and is what appeals to most people. The play is mostly similar to the movie with some of thesongs switched around and some of the characters’ names being different.
There are also some songs in the play that are not in the movie and vice versa.
Moras said most of the students knew the music already. The hard partwas coordinating the choreography with the music. This is the firstproduction for many of the cast members, but Moras said they have learned fast.
“They have come a long way since day one,” Moras said.
One of those who does have experience is Matt Ragas, who plays Danny Zuko. This is the second time Ragas has played Danny, a role that he said isnot easy.
“You have to learn what the character is about and put yourself into his body,” Ragas said. “You have to learn his walk and his talk.”Ragas said he has seen the movie but tries not to follow the way John Travolta plays Danny.
“That was Travolta’s character,” Ragas said. “I try to make him my owncharacter.”Sarah Smith is Sandy, the role almost every young actress dreams of getting.
“I started crying when I saw I got it,” Smith said. “I was excited.Smith said she feels “Grease” is popular because it is something students can relate to.
“It is a hit with teen-agers because it was real,” Smith said. “It wasn’tpretend.”Sandy is the girl next door, pure and innocent, Smith said. Her foil isRizzo, played by Moras.
“It’s a blast,” Moras said of playing the role. “She is a fun character. Sheis kind of like my alter ego, very sarcastic, tough but with a soft side.”Kenickie, the leader of the T-Birds, is played by Jeff Macko.
“I just called on the inner greaser in all of us,” Macko said in preparing for the role.
Macko said Moras is helping cultivate interest in the theater at the school.
“It is so important what she is doing here,” Macko said. “There were nomusicals here before this. The students are learning how an actual theatergoes. She is doing a great job with this and cultivating interest.”Frenchy, the beauty school dropout, Pink Lady and Sandy’s friend, is played by Ashley Haydel. Frenchy tends to be a dumbfounded character at times,and Haydel said the toughest part about the role is talking in another voice and acting at the same time.
It wasn’t just the lead characters who have had to put a lot of work into their roles, however. Members of the chorus, Robin Smith, Amanda Stone,Erin Cesta, Christina Kruse, Cindy Scheider, Mary Avallone, Shannon Wright (who also plays Cha-Cha) and Kelly Camp, have had to learn just about every song in the production and put in a lot of preparation.
But despite the long hours rehearsing and staying after school and coming in during spring break, cast members said they’ve had fun preparing for the play.
“I hope the audience has as much fun watching it as we do performing it,” Haydel said.
Photo: KENICKIE (Jeff Macko) and the T-Birds perform “Grease Lightning” as they “rebuild” his car into a hot roadster in one of the play’s most memorable scenes. Director Barbara Moras got help with the set from the school’sshop class.
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