An excited chatter filled the space in anticipation, and lively discussions of the cast, people’s love for “Grease” and the homework to procrastinate on could be heard before the lights went dim. We went opening night, Feb. 1, and it was packed as was expected with the amount of publicity this musical received. The Saturday show featured a sold-out auditorium; extra chairs were needed to seat the audience.
“Grease” was chosen in respect to Dougherty’s 10th anniversary.
“We wanted to do things from the first year,’” explained Paul Vega, the advisor of the DVHS Drama Program and director of the show, “And while our first show was ‘High School Musical,’ essentially that’s ‘Grease.’”
It was written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey in the 1970s, before being adapted into the classic musical movie, directed by Robert Stigwood. “Grease” is known as a fun and raunchy depiction of high school life in the 50’s. Watching Dougherty students bring such an energy onto Dougherty campus was especially interesting — seeing your peers aggressively hip-thrusting on stage created an unforgettable image.
The first act started slowly, with more dialogue than song as both the Burger Palace Boys and the Pink Ladies were introduced and their parts in the plot established. The groups are introduced separately; Doody (Hyunsu Jang), Roger (Joshua Lee), Kenickie (Ayman Azizuddin), Sonny (Jonan Harris-Beck) and the notorious Danny Zuko (Joshua Guadarrama) appear in leather jackets and coiffed wigs, and ill-fitting jeans that were either too tight or too loose that finished off the aesthetic. The Pink Ladies weren’t any less dressed up; wearing matching pink bombers proudly adorned with their group name across the back, Rizzo (Jade Tsao), Frenchy (Marie Bast), Marty (Alison Lee), Jan (Izzy Roth) and their new member, Sandy (Breezy Bochenek), the Pink Ladies are comprised of a perfect medley of the gold-digging, naive, sexually-liberated and good-girl high school romantic tropes.
The combined exposition of their characters through solos and their interactions with the Burger Palace boys drive the main plot forward — Sandy and Danny’s love story — but “Grease” was never meant to be a plot-focused musical. However, it did have a very strong supporting cast. While the spotlight shone on Bochenek’s voice, the acoustics of the show were elevated, highlighting why she was chosen as the main lead. Seasoned veterans, such as seniors Bast and Lee, were interesting to watch as they played characters atypical to the often quirky child and matronly figure that respectively appeared in their previous shows.
The character of Rizzo, played by Tsao, stood out as well in her part of the story. Although a newcomer on the Dougherty Valley stage, Tsao had been part of many different productions since her freshman year; now as a junior, she took that experience to the stage. Tsao stood out in every performance as Rizzo, from her theatrical sarcasm in “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee” to her emotional vulnerability of “There are Worse Things I Could Do.” Her depiction of Rizzo made the character nuanced and created an undertone of vulnerability. Rizzo’s story built until her final solo of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” where her fears of being pitied overrode her worries of potentially being pregnant, and Tsao’s portrayal of the lost, yet delusionally powerful feelings of the moment was almost (ALMOST) enough justification for the complete image change Sandy decides to adopt in the scenes after.
The Burger Palace Boys’ performances also warrant attention. Although their characters aren’t as developed as the Pink Ladies, their emphasis on a high school’s boy’s over-exaggerated energy made for an entertaining show. Azizuddin and Harris-Beck took the lead as Kenickie and Sonny respectively. Jang and Lee brought physical comedy to the roles of Roger and Doody, and despite this musical being the first time either of them appeared onstage, they seemed like naturals. Joining them in their Dougherty theater debut was Guadarrama, a freshman whose first role was playing the lead role of Danny Zuko — and yet, like Bochenek, it was obvious what made him suited for the role.
“Grease” has many iconic songs, but the best renditions from the musical were actually the less popular ones from the film. “Freddy My Love” sung by Alison Lee (Marty) gave the audience a more contemporary, emotional version of the song, arguably better than the original. A couple songs later Joshua Lee (Roger) and Roth (Jan) gave a hilarious and well-acted version of “Mooning.” Filo Ebid, who played the “Teen Angel”, showed off his smooth vocals in “Beauty School Dropout.”
The production was no easy task; auditions were held in November, and the rehearsals began soon after Thanksgiving break, giving the cast of “Grease” eight weeks to perfect the show — a shorter amount of time than usual, according to Vega.
“The hardest part is having to come to rehearsal everyday, and constantly having to have a lot of energy,” Roth affirmed. “If you’re not on your A game, it’s not going to be a good show.”
While Grease takes place at Rydell High, a high school much different than the environment Dougherty students are accustomed to, the energy of “Grease” channels a freedom that can only be a fantasy for many people.
“No matter what type of school you’re in, there’s a little rebel in all of us,” Vega mused. “And while we know what we have to do to achieve our goals, it’s a lot of fun to watch somebody who really doesn’t care. [‘Grease’ is] all about having fun.”