Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spread the word

Arts in Motion Youth Players and the Kennett Drama Club present 'Grease'

There is a great debate over what the word is. The Beatles said it was love. The Trashmen claimed it was bird. For the next two weeks at Kennett High School’s Loynd Auditorium in North Conway there is no question that the word is “Grease.”

“Grease,” a collaboration between the Arts in Motion Youth Players and the Kennett Drama Club, opened Thursday and will be performed March 19-21 as well as March 26-28.

The 1950s-set musical first appeared on Broadway in 1971, and, thanks to the 1978 film adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, has had staying power. “Grease" has slipped into our greater cultural consciousness and, whether they like it or not, most people are at least familiar with some of the songs.

For those who have managed to avoid “Grease,” it tells the story of Danny (senior Ged Owen) and Sandy (senior Molly Paven) who meet over the summer and fall in love only to find that when school starts they run in different social circles. Danny is a greaser with a reputation to protect, and Sandy is a goody-two-shoes who doesn’t fit in with the tough, fun-loving Pink Ladies.

Three new songs were written for the film including the popular “You’re the One That I Want.” In Broadway revivals of the show, these songs are often included — and that’s also the case with the production at Kennett.

In the film as well as on stage, the roles have almost always been played by adults, so one plus that a high school production of “Grease” has is that all the actors are age appropriate for their roles.

This production directed by Glenn Noble is bright and lively with some spectacular choreography by junior Rebecca Sciola.

“Born to Hand Jive” features some nicely incorporated swing dance moves that are well performed by the cast. “Greased Lightning,” featuring choreography by junior Shannon Reville, is a show highlight with many of the guys doing some impressive flips.

All the show’s most popular songs are presented and performed here well. “Summer Nights,” with Danny and Sandy telling contradictory version of their summer romance to their gossip-hungry cliques, starts the show off with high energy and the right tone of humor.

Senior Casper Van Coesant is a standout as Teen Angel serenading the ditsy Frenchie (freshman Shelby Noble) on the cheeky “Beauty School Dropout.”

The two leads, Owen and Paven, carry the show nicely, with Owen effective as a greaser with a softer side and Paven playing uptight and love sick just right. Owen and Paven are particularly strong in their big final number, “You’re the One That I Want.” Paven, who was forced to play prude for most of the show, has fun unleashing Sandy’s repressed bad girl and helps to end the show on a high note.

Part of the fun of a high school production is for students and parents to see their classmates and children on stage. The environment in the audience is less reserved than the traditional theater experience as parents and friends hoot, holler and cheer when the person they’ve come to see graces the stage.

“Grease” is successful on that level and should leave students plenty to talk about in the school halls.

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