by Stephen Dafoe
Morinville Community High School actors have been putting in plenty of hours rehearsing the school’s annual Christmas season play, a necessary investment given the school has taken on one of its most ambitious productions to date. Grease: the Musical will take place Dec. 3-5 at the Morinville Community Cultural Centre.
Though the audience may be more familiar with the 1978 John Travolta and Olivia Newton John movie of the same name, the play predates the film by seven years and its subject matter by two decades. Set in 1959, the musical follows the lives of 10 working-class teenagers.
Director Vanessa King said the musical assembles a cast of 33 and another 10 students forming the technical crew.
“It’s a big show. Bigger than I anticipated,” King said during a recent rehearsal. “There’s a tonne of musical numbers that take a long time to organize, but the kids are super committed and having a lot of fun with it. It’s been a good experience so far.”
King said the cast had a solid surprise this year with the addition of a new actor Albert Nault, who will take on the lead role of Danny Zuko. “He had never tried out before, but he earned it,” King said of awarding him the part. “Totally new to the whole experience.” Also new this year is the addition of four Grade 9 students to the cast. Last year’s production had no junior grade thespians in the production. “We’re seeing a lot of different people step up to be leaders among the cast that have always been sort of in the shadow of everyone else.”
King is joined in directing the play by Keegan Mabbitt, an MCHS alumnus who has worked with King on seven MCHS theatrical productions – three as an actor, four as a fellow director. The directors are joined by Angeline Charrois and Riley Quinn as vocal coaches.
Long process from script to stage
Many hours have been put into the lines, songs and moves that have made Grease a theatrical staple for the past 43 years.
King said auditions began the second week of September and the cast was selected a week later. It has been daily rehearsals until 5 p.m. after school as well as weekend rehearsals that run for six or eight hours each. It is an investment of time that King says is warranted and necessary. “It takes that much time. They say for every minute that you are on stage; you should rehearse for an hour. If a song is three minutes long, you should rehearse it for three hours. That’s if you are lucky.”
Bigger stage, bigger show this year
For the first time since it opened in 2011, the school will move their major production to the Morinville Community Cultural Centre stage. “We have all of their fantastic technical equipment,” King said of the opportunity, adding it will still be an MCHS show. “We’ll still have our amazing sets. We’ll build it here, take it apart, and rebuild it over there.”
Beyond the sets and lights, King said the audience could expect some musical surprises. “Because this is Grease: the Musical for the stage, there’s a whole bunch of songs people aren’t familiar with. So there is some freshness to it but the familiarity as well.
The director advises theatre goers to get their tickets fast as the production will take place on three nights this year, rather than the longer run of past years. Tickets for the show are $8 per seat and are available at the Morinville Community High School office, Sobeys Morinville and at the door. Doors open each night at 6:45 p.m. with the show starting at 7 p.m.