Audiences will have the opportunity to journey back to Rydell High and the 1950s this week as the Oakdale High School performance of “Grease” opens Thursday.

The classic show is being brought to life under the guidance of a new director and a cast who has grown up with different gender standards. 

Colleen Pietrucha makes her directing debut with the 1971 musical about love. Pietrucha leads the school's drama department and is a French teacher. There are many talented seniors this year, which matches well with a show featuring multiple leading characters and solo songs, Pietrucha said.

The show has a lot of dancing, too, which is exciting for a cast as big as Oakdale’s, she said.

“It’s a challenge getting 75 people up onstage and dancing together,” Pietrucha said.

Getting the 1950s hair and costumes — such as the iconic Pink Ladies and T-Birds jackets — was also difficult, she said.

Adapting a show written and set in an earlier time presents problems not just with costumes. Olivia Graham, who is playing Sandy, the lead female role, said she tweaked her character to be more empowering, especially in the musical’s final scene where Sandy has undergone a mental and physical transformation.

“Especially for the ending scene, I didn’t really like the message,” the senior said. “I made it about Sandy doing it for herself rather than doing it for Danny.”

Many of the lead characters have spent years involved in theater at Oakdale. Joseph Ricasa, a senior, was involved in competitive cheerleading before getting involved in theater years ago. He is playing Danny, the lead male character, Ricasa described the leader of the T-Birds as seemingly tough but one who is actually soft on the inside.

“I’ve seen ‘Grease’ before, and I love that movie,” he said. “Trying to bring that complicated and complex character to life is a good challenge.”

The show is not just about love, though. There are funny parts, led by characters such as Roger and Jan, said Ally Godsey, who plays Jan. The senior said she got involved in theater as a way to do comedy, one of her passions.

“It’s been fun to do comedy onstage and get people to laugh with me,” she said.

Delaney White, a senior, said she plans to continue studying theater and performing in college. This week, White is playing Rizzo, the sassy leader of the Pink Ladies. She grew up watching “Grease,” she said.

Pietrucha said that while many people have seen the movie musical, they will be excited to hear the catchy songs featured only in stage productions. Together with the dancing, it will be a high-energy show, she said.

Follow Wyatt Massey on Twitter: @News4Mass.

(8) comments

RobRLG

I read it as the actress found meaningful motivation for the last scene that strengthened the character in self discovery. I've seen Grease on stage several times and saw this on opening night at Oakdale. The script wasn't changed in lines or the situation of the carnival. Whatever was motivating her certainly worked for the character’s conversion. The character through the play had a quality of apologetic for who she was as if not comfortable in her own skin. It was fun to see the character’s metanoia to fulfillment. [thumbup]

niceund

Love to see kids acting and participating in the Arts in general. However, I didn't particularly like the statement about changing the ending because "I didn't like the message".

rbtdt5

Don't like history or the end of a story, you can change it. That's how it works in the real world now.

niceund

Not in theater

derson21

Why?

edewyse

Isn’t artistic expression all about not playing by the rules and sending a message to the audience through your portrayal of a character? I think a young woman using her role to send a message about female empowerment and doing things to serve your own happiness, not a man’s, is far more admirable than sticking to the status quo. I’d like to give a round of applause to her for showcasing what she believes and spreading positive message of empowerment and equality.

niceund

Nice but that's not what the show is about.

Aime Rita

Correct - the core of the show is a love story. That element has not been adapted or modified in the least in Oakdale's rendition. The only thing this young woman said she tried to do was portray the character in an empowering light. Why would this be a negative in any circumstance? Sandy's character can still be confident and empowered when in love with Danny, so the objection to the interpretation seems a bit of an overreaction. The core of the show has not been changed, the plot still stands and the ending remains the same. An actor's creative license on a role is part of what makes the experience so challenging and rewarding. We should be encouraging young people to take on roles such as Sandy and Danny and use their creativity to help the character's shine.

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