Everyone has their favourite song from the hit movie Grease, whether they want to admit it or not.
There’s no denying the love of the music for the cast of the Odeum Theatre Society as they prepare to stage the iconic play at the ACT on Saturday, August 31 with the help of the Ridge Meadows Orchestra.
For anyone who has seen the 1978 movie Grease featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, all you have to do is simply pick a tune and somewhere, in the crowded rehearsal room, you’re sure to find a cast member humming a bar.
The infectious energy the actors display during rehearsal carries over to the down time. Between rehearsing for scenes, a small groups of actors cast as T-Birds, clad in denim, white T-shirts and greased-back hair, break out into song. They’re not necessarily preparing for the next scene, rather just belting out lyrics from one of their favourite from the dozen or so numbers that are part of the Grease folklore.
In one group, Trevor McDonnell and Wyatt Plume work on their accents while singing the “Summer Nights.”
Both young actors are completely uninhibited in their mannerisms, displaying the teenage angst that drives the story line.
“We knew most of the songs before we even came to the audition,” laughs McDonnell, who plays Roger, a T-Bird and self-described funny man. “So many people know the story. It’s one of those plays where it’s just so easy to get into character.”
Judging by the grease in his hair, McDonnell won’t have any trouble on opening night. Plume is the same. He and McDonnell trade punches to the arm and jump on each other’s back like a pair of pent-up school kids desperately waiting for the end of the school day.
“It was a different time, everyone acted different,” explains Plume. “It’s over-dramatized guyisms. It’s a chance for us to goof around and just have fun.”
There’s certainly no shortage of that as Clark Sehaufele keeps an eye on rehearsals. As the music director for Odeum Theatre, Sehaufele is also the theatre company’s rehearsal pianist. It’s been his job to help ensure their unbridled enthusiasm is channelled appropriately.
He said it’s one thing to know the music, it’s another to be able to deliver on such a popular Broadway production.
Grease made it’s debut in New York on February 14, 1972 and earned seven Tony nominations in its first year.
One of Broadway’s most popular productions, the expectations are also higher when the play is produced. People have a connection to the characters before the curtain even rises.
Sehaufele is confident the cast at Odeum can deliver.
“They want to put on a great show because they know everyone else is familiar with the play,” said Sehaufele, who recently completed his Master’s degree in music from the University of Montreal. “The expectation levels with this play is probably higher than most.”
He said his job is channeling the energy so he can teach the intricacies of the music so that they can give a satisfying performance. Sehaufele said part of that is motivation and part coaching.
“This is probably the sharpest group we’ve had in the six years since we’ve been in Maple Ridge. In the first few days I was almost at a loss for what to do because the cast had learned all their songs so quickly. We were miles ahead of where we normally are when we first get together. Usually I have to keep on drilling and drilling, but this year, they learned right away.”
Their ability to pick up the lines and songs so quick also helps with the fact that they crammed their rehearsals into a two week period before opening night at the ACT.
“Most of these kids are doing this because they love to act and they have fun being here,” reflected Sehaufele. “They aren’t in music or acting lessons, they just keep coming back year after year because it’s a chance to perform.”
Kayla Cameron serves as the theatre director and choreographer for Odeum and said the familiarity of the play has allowed everyone involved to get past the awkward early stages in rehearsals where they are trying to define their characters. She said they knew them before they even opened to page one.
“Everyone has just jumped in and embraced their roles and have had fun with it,
said Cameron. “They’ve been able to ham it up and get into character right away. It’s been fun, for sure.”
The Odeum Theatre Society presents Grease Saturday, Aug. 31 performed live with the Ridge Meadows Orchestra. Show times at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $18 at the door, $15 in advance or four for $50. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.theactmapleridge.org/Grease.