‘Grease’ is the word for Shaler Area Middle School musical
Grab your poodle skirt or leather jacket and hop in a classic car bound for Rydell High School — by way of Shaler Area Middle School.
More than 60 middle-schoolers will star in “Grease” on Feb. 15 and 16 in the school auditorium. The students will perform a full-length, school-appropriate version of the show.
Jim Jacobs’ and Warren Casey’s 1972 musical follows students from the fictional Rydell High School as they navigate storylines of peer pressure, values and love. The production follows Sandy, whom eighth-grader Lauren Lorenz plays, as she tries to fit in at her new school. Her situation is complicated when she learns that her summer crush, Danny, whom seventh-grader Joshua Clark plays, attends the same school.
“I try to act cool when I hang around with my friends, but I really like Sandy,” Joshua, 12, said about his character. “But he doesn’t want anyone else to know.”
Lauren enjoys playing the classic character. “She (Sandy) falls in love with Danny and notices that he lied to her about going to a different school,” Lauren, 14, said. “She sort of notices that Danny is different at school and she’s trying to get a new identity, but she can’t.”
Eighth-grader Samy Rodibaugh, 14, plays spitfire Rizzo, known to cause trouble.
“Rizzo is like the leader of Pink Ladies and she’s kind of stuck up and rude, but she’s kind of sincere at some points, but not a lot,” Samy said.
Rizzo is friends with fellow Pink Lady, Frenchy, whom eighth-grader Rachel Scierka portrays. Rachel said that she can relate to her “bubbly” character. “I try to talk to everyone and be nice to everybody.”
Similarly, eighth-grader Thomas Bartosh, 14, said that he could relate to his character, Roger, who gets along with everyone at school.
“Roger is supposed to be like comic relief. I never really say anything serious. I’m always saying some sort of joke or just something to lighten the mood,” Thomas said.
Fellow T-Bird group member Kenickie, whom eighth-grader Alexander Eastly, 13, portrays, also frequently cracks jokes.
“My guy is a ladies’ man, so he gets a lot of dates,” he added.Alexander will ride in a prop car that GATE (gifted and talented education) students and teacher Andy Schrom are fashioning from a janitorial cart, lumber and foam board, said co-director and Shaler Area Middle School English teacher Jennifer Birch.
Additionally, Birch said that Shaler Area High School junior Michael Bly, a member of his school’s dance team, has choreographed many of the production’s routines.
Birch, who is working on the show with co-director Mary Beth Stoddart, said that the show is just as relevant as it was in the ‘70s.
“Regardless of the decade the musical’s set in, these are universal experiences that are happening in real-time for the middle- and high-school students who perform the show. And from an audience perspective, it’s pure nostalgia: for the movie (of course!), but mostly for the first time they themselves in love and found a group of friends to stick by them through any obstacle.”
Furthermore, seventh-grader Luka DePasquale said that it’s enjoyable expressing himself as Sonny in “Grease.”
“It’s fun because it’s like wiping a slate clean. You get to be somebody else for an hour or two. It really makes you feel good.”
Erica Cebzanov is a