November 16, 2010
The most highly anticipated show of the fall dramatic season opened with great success as capacity audiences poured into the Annie Russell Theatre over the weekend of November 12 through 14. This celebrated musical was by far the biggest production of the semester, with a cast of 24 students and a live orchestra.
A true crowd-pleaser, Grease kept the audience laughing out loud throughout the entire performance. The show went off without a hitch under the direction of Rollins Department of Theater and Dance Visiting Guest Faculty member Kevin Gray, who has played numerous roles on Broadway, and in national and UK tours. His wife Dodie Pettit whose performance resume is equally impressive, brought the stage to life as choreographer. Last academic year, this husband and wife directing team wowed audiences with their widely acclaimed production of Cabaret on the same stage, the scale of which they tried to recreate in Grease.
The live music, provided by students and faculty of the Rollins Department of Music, made the production a complete sensory experience. Conducted by Adjunct Professor James Ray, student musicians Paul Terry (Holt) on drums and Michelle Scheen (Holt) on tenor sax, along with professional musicians from the community, created a rocking soundtrack and helped the performers to shine. Brett Miller (Class of 2014) meshed perfectly with the orchestra as Teen Angel to create powerfully authentic rendition of “Beauty School Drop-Out.”
The plot of Grease follows Sandy, Danny, Rizzo, Kenickie and the rest of the graduating class of Rydell High. Where the hallways are filled with love, rebellion and dance-offs, the characters are coming of age and having to deal with new-found (or lack-of) maturity and personal identity.
“These students have experienced, or are currently experiencing, a lot of these same struggles,” said Gray, commenting that the reason he selected Grease is because he believed that the students at Rollins could easily relate to the musical’s theme.
Nearly all of the leading roles are played by veterans of the Annie Russell stage, with Stephanie Leone (Class of 2012) as Sandy and Brian Hatch (Class of 2012) as Danny Zuko. Chelsea Swearingen (Class of 2012) coolly portrayed leader of the ‘Pink Ladies,’ Rizzo, alongside the comical Shannon Lynch (Class of 2012) as Frenchy. Making his Annie Russell debut is William Allred (Class of 2013) as Kenickie. “It’s been a totally new experience performing onstage,” said Allred, who previously spent his time backstage, behind the scenes. “I became really close with the character and put a little bit of myself into each of his songs.”
Colorful and flashy lighting and projections designed by Kevin Griffin, costumes designed by Seth Schrager and an uncomplicated, multi-level set, designed by Lauren Cushman all add theatrical nuances to the production, creating a feast for the eyes.
Grease continues performances on Wednesday, November 17 through Saturday, November 20. For more information on the Rollins Department of Theatre and Dance, Annie Russell Theater performances and box office information, visit www.rollins.edu/annierussell or call 407-646-2145.
View more photos from the production.
By Justin Braun (MBA Class of 2011)
Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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