‘Grease’ stirs nostalgia for original Broadway show

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Northwest Vista College presents a fun-loving look at an old-fashioned era.

By Maritza Ramirez

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

A musical at Northwest Vista College is taking the campus down memory lane with the Pink Ladies, the T-Birds and songs such as “Greased Lightnin’” and “Summer Nights.”

“Grease” gives a nostalgic look at a group of high school students during their senior year in the late 1950s, said Tim Hedgepeth, Northwest Vista drama director.

The show, which opened March 2, continues at 8 p.m. today through Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Palmetto Theater at Northwest Vista.

Some of the songs and all of the main characters from the 1978 movie may be recognized, he said.

Hedgepeth said the college’s version includes a couple of scenes and plots from the original Broadway show that are not in the film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

“A lot of people will be expecting similarities to the movie,” Hedgepeth said.

“We are trying to make it look as 1950s as possible,” Hedgepeth said.

“We want to do our best to give the audience what they are expecting and give a reminder of what the show was like before the movie came out,” Hedgepeth said.

Hedgepeth said the reason he decided to do the show had nothing to do with the movie, but everything to do with the Broadway show, which ran from 1972 to 1980, according to the Internet Broadway Database.

“I’m a big fan of the Broadway show from the early 1970s,” Hedgepeth said.

Hedgepeth said several students in the drama program were interested in doing a musical. Hedgepeth said he specifically looked for one to cast for the drama students and said “Grease” was a good choice.

“They had the right age, right sense of humor and right energy,” he said.

“’Grease’ is such a funny show and kind of a silly show,” Hedgepeth said.

“It’s more about nostalgia for a time in our culture, and it wasn’t quite as innocent as the show makes it out to be,” he said.

Hedgepeth said there are some messages that audience members have to look for that have to do with sexism, which was a part of the 1950s and in high school. He said it’s not obvious, but there is an intelligence to the show that suggests ways society has treated and thought about women.

“Even though we’ve wrapped it up in a big colorful ribbon, it ultimately is a very happy show, but I think it’s a very sexist show,” he said.

Regardless, the auditions attracted students he had not directed before.

Hedgepeth said he had already worked with several actors at NVC and at local theaters; the other half of the cast are brand-new to him.

“It’s always nice to meet new talents and young actors for the first time,” Hedgepeth said.

“They have such enthusiasm and such an interest in this sort of thing,” he said.

The main characters are played by Emily Sanchez as Sandy Dubrowski, Anthony Castro as Danny Zuko, Gabriel Maldonado as Kenickie and Dorianna James as Betty Rizzo.

Hedgepeth described the audition process.

“We go through auditions with each actor, they sing a song, perform a monologue, have them come in all at the same time and teach them a dance,” Hedgepeth said.

Musical director Andrew Hendley and choreographer Courtnie Mercer are present for auditioning the cast.

“From there we decide who has the best voice, who has the best comic skills, who the best dancer is and then we mix and match until we have a cast we are happy with,” he said.

Hedgepeth said the cast had rehearsals 6 1/2 weeks and have been busy and dedicated.

“Attendance has been great, and enthusiasm has been wonderful,” Hedgepeth said.

The cast rehearsed for several hours a night and even on Saturdays — a total of 15-20 hours a week — but they worked 10 hours a day for the week of the opening performance.

“(It’s) what we call tech week,” he said.

“Rehearsals were long, we had all our costumes, all the lights, the band was rehearsing with us now,” Hedgepeth said.

Hedgepeth said rehearsing on an empty stage for a while is a good place to begin because it’s not that stressful. But with everything rolling toward opening night, the cast was more tired than stressed. Hedgepeth said the crew had some long nights this week but it was certainly worth it and he believed they would have a good show.

“I’m grateful as a director to have a group of young actors that are so dedicated to the show we are working on,” Hedgepeth said.

Costume designer Michelle Pietri, lighting designer Tim Francis and set designer Todd Deaver help with production.

“For every show we build the props, find them or shop for them,” Hedgepeth said.

“My job is to make sure everything comes together,” he said.

“I’m lucky because I totally trust the people I work with,” Hedgepeth said.

“They are very skilled professionals, they can all come together very beautifully and we work together very well,” he said.

Hedgepeth said he is a lucky guy to get such a good cast.

“Everybody is right for their roles, they’re good singers, they’re funny and believable,” he said.

Hedgepeth said he wants the audience to be entertained.

“I want them to laugh and have a good time; if they like it, then tell their friends,” he said.

The box office opens one hour before performance. Tickets are $3 for students with an ID, $5 for seniors and military, and $8 for general admission. Both cash and credit is accepted and reserved seating is not available.

For more information call 210-486-4290 or 210-486-4527.

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