Cast members stretch in Concordia’s Francis Frazier Comstock Theater, warming up for the final rehearsal before their debut performance of “Grease.” The buzz of drilling indicates the last few boards are ready for the set as the cast gets into position on stage in front of scattered set pieces such as a bedroom, a classroom and a real emerald green 1953 Desoto known as “Greased Lightning.” “Grease” is set to hit the Concordia stage Thursday, Nov. 10 at 8 p.m., and the theatre department expects a large reception for the Fifties-themed classic.
“Grease” is being performed in honor of Jim Cermak, the assistant professor and theatre director at Concordia. He is retiring at the end of this academic year, and the theatre department is celebrating his forty years of commitment by reviving past shows he directed. “Grease” was picked in particular for its ability to draw large audiences and sell tickets.
“We’re still a week from opening night,” Assistant Theatre Professor Jennifer Thomas said, “and we’ve already sold 1,400 of our 2,100 tickets. The folks are coming out to see ‘Grease.’”
The South Fargo High School theatre is also set to perform this classic in early December and continue the “Grease” fever. But Concordia’s rendition sets itself apart by varying from the well-known movie layout.
“Some of the songs aren’t from the movie; the movie was its own piece that came out after the musical,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to honor the cultural marker that ‘Grease’ was while simultaneously being creative and true to our artistic vision of the show.”
Audience members can expect to delve deeper into characters beyond Danny and Sandy in this adaptation, and this comes from Sandy herself. The heroine in this iconic remake is played by sophomore Tiffany Sieu, who felt that this performance veers from the movie by focusing less on love triangles and more on forgotten characters.
“There’s a lot more violence in this [version] of ‘Grease,’” Sieu said above a roar of “doo-wops” from the stage. “No one dies, but there aren’t many fight scenes in the [original] ‘Grease.’ It’s more Danny and Sandy, and this one really brings out more characters like Jan, Marty, Rizzo and everyone else. It really shows you all the characters more than just the Danny-Sandy story.”
The side story on cast members’ lips was from the “Beauty School Drop-out” scene. This renowned scene features the ditzy but lovable Frenchy and her dream man, Teen Angel, as she struggles to decide between beauty school and high school. Frenchy’s character is performed by junior theatre major Maggie Larrivee.
“[Frenchy] is the best friend of Sandy and the one Pink Lady who is not as judgmental as everyone else,” Larrivee said. “She’s always sweet, [though] not the brightest bulb, but she has a good heart, and it’s always been her strength.”
Guiding the hair-brained Frenchy is Teen Angel, performed by junior Casey Gardner, who dons a “full-on glitter suit, with baroque period frills” for the scene.
“Teen Angel is Frenchy’s hunky, dreamboat guy who flies in from the sky and is her guardian angel,” Gardner said.
This sky-lit scene wouldn’t have been possible without intense set work from Robert Christiansen, Concordia’s technical director and senior set designer. Christiansen built everything for the set from scratch, except, of course, the infamous “Greased Lightning” vehicle.
“Different things from the time period spoke to me, like diners and drive-ins… it will give it a “jukebox” feel when it all gets put together,” Christiansen said.
The unique sets, character dynamics and iconic story are already promising a full house. Junior Josh Conroy, who plays bad-boy Greaser Kenickie, said that this performance, “is a great opportunity to see another sector of all that Concordia has to offer as far as its tapestry of talent. I think that this will revive an enthusiasm for Concordia theatre because it will be so well performed and sung.”
“Grease” will run Nov. 8 through the 12 and Nov. 17 through the 19 at 8 p.m., with a matinee performance Nov. 13 at 2 p.m.