Last month, high school students put their twist on Broadway musicals in Grant High School’s Grease and Catlin Gabel’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Poodle skirts and leather jackets were flying as Grant High School students danced and sang their way across the stage in their winter musical, Grease. The detailed costumes and props made the audience feel like they were living in the ’50s, yet the performers brought their own attitude and humor to the widely known script.
Nik Wagner, who played the part of Kenickie, speaks to the pressure of performing in a well-known play: “[I had] to sing a solo in [the] musical called ‘Greased Lightning’ which is one of the play’s most popular songs and is a performance that the audience is expecting to be incredible. At first I was a bit nervous but after a few simple steps of guidance from Chris Lane, director, and John Eiseman, vocal instructor, I was able to … sell the performance with the right attitude and level of confidence.”
Chris Lane, director, says they decided to base their show more on the original play than on the film: “We pretty much adhered to the original script with a few minor adjustments … We were going for a slightly grittier look and feel that was closer to the original production.”
Grease proved to be the lively and gritty show that was expected as the teens on stage worked through the prominent issues in the play like peer pressure, fitting in, and teen pregnancy. Grease ran two weekends in early February.
Audiences can catch Grant’s spring musical production of The Wiz later this year.
Catlin Gabel’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was a sensation managed under a mere eleven-person cast. The story of adolescents maturing and learning lessons through the course of a spelling bee was depicted in a touching and hilarious light, with original spins on costumes and jokes.
Director Elizabeth Gibbs explains, “Spelling Bee is an interesting musical, because the characters are mostly middle school-aged, but they are traditionally played by adults … I think that in giving these roles to high schoolers, the very real challenges tackled by these young characters resonate even more strongly.”
Ian Fyfield, who played Vice Principal Panch, speaks to the message that he interpreted from the play: “the message of the show to me is that your upbringing is not what defines you. The people you meet and the actions you take are what define you.”
Impromptu additional spelling bee contestants selected from the audience gave the play a different feel every night. It ran the last weekend in February and the first weekend in March. Audiences who missed the production can attend Catlin’s one-acts and the senior play production of The Museum this spring.