This has been an Autumn Term like no other. The expression ‘feet not touching the ground’ has been a literal as well as a metaphorical experience for us all in the theatre at Calne. Fresh from success at The Edinburgh Fringe* and achieving critical acclaim in The National Schools’ Shakespeare Festival*, the Drama Department joined forces with the Music Department in a magnificent, breath-taking and hugely successful creative project. The first ever Senior Musical (for UV, LVI and UVI Form), Grease represented a new departure from the established Autumn Theatre Production Programme*. The high octane performances witnessed in the Delscey Burns Theatre were the outcome of a fantastic and fun collaboration between Music and Drama. Rehearsed and performed in just under seven weeks, this was a major project which was prepared, quite literally, like Greased Lightnin’!
Every single member of this stunningly talented ensemble, including cast, crew and musicians, deserved every accolade and every great applause. The skills needed to stage a musical, however popular and seemingly ‘simple’ the piece, should never be underestimated. Drawing together the disciplines of Acting, Singing, Dance and Movement, as well as the technical demands of live music and sound, lighting and staging, is a tall order. The creativity and the ingenuity of the girls, both on and off stage, were stupendous. T he steep learning curves of this project were many; just like the show itself, Grease rehearsals were, ‘fast, furious and thrilling, and fun, fun, fun!’ The memories are still intense, ranging from the high energy dance workshops with ‘The Jiving Lindy Hoppers’ to the vocal ‘work-outs’ in which the most sublime harmonies were created for our stage.
Grease was definitely a high impact production. Visually stunning, with artwork by LVI Form artists, the large, partly raked set boasted a superb vintage convertible and vintage motor bike. Lighting was sensational, with high speed effects and film montage. As we immersed ourselves in the American 1950’s of popular imagination, however, it was the performers who took our breath away. The glorious singing of so many soloists, the dancing, the acting, the costumes, the superb band… the list of credits is endless. It was hard to believe, for example, that the T-birds, were not young men. They had more ‘attitude’ (apparently) than their male contemporaries in other Grease productions. (Trust a St Mary’s girl to out-do a boy in being a boy!) From the soaring high notes of Sandy, to the highly accomplished and heart-breaking performance of Rizzo, from the comic timing of Eugene and Miss Lynch, to the hilarity of Frenchy, from the misguided seductresses, preppy Patty and sultry Cha-Cha, to the beauty and charm of Marty and Jan – our audiences were enthralled.
It is with pride much greater than Rydell High’s that the Music and Drama Departments of St Mary’s thank all who played a part in the world’s first ever all-female production of Jim Jacobs’ and Warren Casey’s iconic show. Who knows what the future has in store for further Music and Drama creative collaborations? For the moment and for a long time to come, in The Delscey Burns Theatre, GREASE IS THE WORD!
*Grossladies, a Sartre and Dario Fo Sixth Form led production, played at C Venues at The Edinburgh Fringe from 27th – 31st August. It was a great success, with one reviewer saying that it was difficult to believe this was school drama, that it was better than many shows by professionals she had reviewed.
*Measure for Measure, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s great classic, was performed by our LV Form ensemble as part of the National Schools’ Shakespeare Festival. It played at The Tobacco Factory in Bristol on 6th October and was praised by National Theatre professionals for the exceptionally high standards of the performers.
*This Autumn Term is a departure from the norm: there are not one, but two, school productions. Following on from Grease - Truly, Madly, Deeply by Anthony Minghella is our December Show to be performed by the MIV, UIV and LV Forms. A ghost story for Christmas, this is the hauntingly beautiful love story, first made famous by Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson.