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'Grease' is ready to roar onto Mt. Pleasant Area stage

| Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Kelly Vernon | The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Cast members of 'Grease' at Mt. Pleasant Area Junior-Senior High School rehearse the 'Greased Lightnin'' scene, including (first row, from left) Ian Hoover, Ben Pimental and Jake Dengler; (second row) Bruno Anys; (third row) Kylan Bartok, Haley Feltes, Ryley Anderson, Garrett Woodmancy and Joshua Kinneer.

High energy and a glimpse into the lives of high school students in the 1950s will burst into action on stage tomorrow with the musical “Grease” at Mt. Pleasant Area Junior-Senior High School.

A cast of 30 student performers and stage crew will execute the musical version of the motion picture at the high school's auditorium at 7 p.m. tomorrow and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, said Rich Bair, the production's director.

It marks the first time the high school has presented a musical in more than 30 years.

Making the change from a theatrical play to a musical affected more students than Bair anticipated, he said.

Those who made up the entire companies of two plays Bair directed at the school actually chose not to audition for “Grease” because it involved singing, he said.

However, many other students there who are new to the stage chose to audition for the musical for that very reason, he said.

“(Co-director) Barb (Rolla) and I were watching the students one day during a rehearsal and, (during) a break, we observed their everyday behavior,” Bair said. “At that point, I said ‘Grease'.”

The students' behavior during rehearsals reminded Bair of the characters in the film. The show will feature a single set in order to keep the transitions rapid yet smooth, Bair said.

A version of the production's iconic hot rod, “Greased Lightnin',” is red plywood rendition on loan from Toby Maykuth of the theater department at Albert Gallatin High School.

Since the students taking part were not born at the time of Grease's original release in 1978, the initial portion of their preparations involved watching the film and discussing the actors' roles as it unfolded.

There are many additional detail to address to successfully carry off the performance of a musical than a play, Bair said.

“Our students have a great deal of talent but must be trained to deliver on two levels: acting and vocal performance. That's a tough balance,” Bair said.

Mt. Pleasant Area senior Kylee Zelmore and freshman Ben Pimental will portray the lead role characters, Sandy and Danny, in the production, respectively.

“I have been involved in plays since ninth grade,” Zelmore said. “This is definitely a higher caliber and just as much fun.”

Pimental pointed out that with a higher-profile role comes a greater responsibility.

“The best part of this performance for me is being able to sing songs that generations have grown up with and listened to,” he said.

Costume designer Dawn Rydle, who earned a degree in fashion from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, is trying to replicate the era of the 1950s via costume design. She created poodle skirts for those portraying cheerleaders in the production.

The two-hour performance will feature one 15-minute intermission.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or

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