Friday, May 9, 2014

Grease—Battle Ground High School Drama Club—Battle Ground, WA.



The Company We Keep

This very popular 50’s musical is by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry.  Music director is Darcy Schmitt and Band Director, Greg McKelvey, with choreography by Sky Ring.  It plays through May 17th in BGHS’s Lair.  The show begins at 7 pm.  For more information, go to http://www.battlegroundps.org/blog/battlegrounddramaclubpresentsgrease or henry.stephan@battlegroundps.org
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In schools then, and today, there is an emphasis on belonging to a group, as that is part of what identifies you.  There were the Greasers or gangs, the popular ones, the jocks and cheerleaders, the nerds or brains, teacher’s pets, et. al.  But, what was not “cool,” was being a loner (I belonged to that “group”) or not acting in accordance with the rules of behavior within your group.  In reality, we are all aspects within ourselves of all of those groups.  But, in the 50’s, the lines were a lot clearer.


This musical was followed by another one called, Leader of the Pack, which bombed.  And then there was the dramatic, West Side Story and, as we moved into the 60’s, Bye, Bye Birdie and Hair.  “Times, they are a-changin’.”  But, curiously, people stay the same.  I wonder, as adults, have we every really grown out of the compartments we put ourselves into as Youth?


The story concerns one outsider, Sandy (Sarah Russell), a transfer student to Rydell High.  She has had a magical summer with a young boy named Danny (Ryan McNeal).  But, upon entering high school, she discovers he is the leader of a Gang and so must enacted this role, which includes not following his heart.  Sandy is taken in by a group called the Pink Ladies, with its head, Rizzo (Brianna Sievers), a rather brash young lady.


The gang is all about cars and being “cool.”  The ladies are all about distracting the men from their hot rods.  The story is pretty familiar, as both Sandy and Danny strive to find a way to connect, but without giving up membership in their respective groups or clans.  A date at the drive-in doesn’t go well for them and neither does the school sock hop.  It finally dawns on them, that if they really care about one another, they must walk in the other’s shoes for awhile, and see their world through the other’s eyes.

It works and a brave new world is opened up for them.  What sets this story apart from others is the music and the distinctive supporting characters in the story.  The “Summer Nights” number is a knockout by the two leads, especially the famous ending.  Rizzo has her famous, “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee” song; Marty (Bailey Baxter) mooning for her GI love in “Freddy, My Love;” Kenickie (Tristan Tindall) embraces his famous vehicle in “Greased Lightin’;” Roger (James Dyer) and his main squeeze, Jan (Tiffany Jara) croon about “Mooning;” and Doody (Tanner Leeds) expresses the awakenings of teens in “Those Magic Changes.”

Then we have the “Beauty School Dropout,” Frenchy (Jessie Akerley) crooned to her by the Teen Angel (Skylar Denfield).  Cha-Cha (Teva Egar) is exceptional in her moment of glory, her big dance number.  And Danny moans as he’s “Alone at a Drive-in Movie” and Sandy does the same, as she laments, “It’s Raining on Prom Night.”  In other words, the songs/music are an intricate part of the story.
And they are all performed very well by the characters who present them.

McNeal and Russell are exceptional as the two leads.  If these characters aren’t strong, the show could fall flat.  McNeal has a great singing voice and does well in the dance numbers, too.  And Russell, already touted by me in her two other shows this year, is a star in the making!  She does intense dramatics, classical comedy, and song and dance with equal success.  Watch for her name in lights in the future!

A couple of shining moments in smaller roles are Emily Pulley as Patty, the pom-pom girl, and Brendan Groat as Eugene, the nerd.  It is said there are no small roles and they prove this point.  The choreography by Ring (terrific as Dogberry in their Much Ado About Nothing) has some nice moments, especially effective is Cha-Cha’s dance number and the finale, “We Go together.” 
The band is also quite good but a tad overpowering of the singers at times.  And the mikes/sound system has its hic-ups, too.  Most musicals have these problems and are not easily solved.  But it did not interfere with the overall enjoyment of the show.

The set and costumes added to the nostalgia of the period and were very well done by Sundance Wilson Henry.  And “Cash” Henry’s direction is always up to par.  Having that many young, some inexperienced, youth in the show and making a success of it, is a remarkable achievement.  He has directed Shakespeare and drama with these young people, too, and always pulls off a good production.

I recommend this show.  But, it is a sad note for this group, that this is Sarah Russell’s last show here.  As mentioned, I believe she will go far, but she will be sorely missed.  I wish her God’s speed!  If you do go see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.