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.