By MATT CRANE
Armstrong Middle School begins its two-show run of the musical “Grease” tonight at 7 p.m. in the Greensboro Center auditorium. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the door.
Featuring music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, this staging of “Grease” is an edited version of the original production to accommodate younger actors and audiences.
First-year teachers Amy Dearman and John Staggers said they are excited about mounting the classic musical for the first time in the school’s history.
“We’ve been rehearsing since January and they’re doing really well,” Dearman said.
“Grease” is the story of Rydell High School’s senior class in 1959 and the rekindled romance between head “greaser” Danny Zuko and newly transferred good-girl Sandy Dumbrowski.
Vinny Brocato was cast in the role Danny Zuko for the production, a part the actor said he did not think would come his way.
“It’s been interesting. I didn’t expect to get him at all,” Brocato said.
Dearman said this was the first big role for each of the show’s lead characters. Working with the cast has been a real pleasure, she said.
“The whole cast is really amazing,” she said. “I thought this would be something they would enjoy, and it’s never been done here before.”
Staggers is in charge of the music and said he was more than pleased with the way the students have responded to working on the upbeat musical. The production will feature a live four-piece band including local musicians from around Starkville.
“We’ve got Lee Graham on bass and Jerry Carnathan on guitar. I’m playing drums, and my mother, actually, will be playing the piano,” Staggers said.
The entire Starkville community has helped make a “Grease” a reality, Dearman said.
“Along with the school, we’ve gotten grants from the Starkville Area Arts Council and our own PTA,” she said.
Mississippi State University, as well as members of the community, donated costumes to be used for the production, with a look adding a distinct, vintage flair to the show.
“One of the dresses donated to us is an original 1950s prom dress that the character of Marty gets to wear,” Dearman said. “That was a really cool addition.”
Legends Salon is in charge of hair for the musical, and Copy Cow donated its services for printing programs, Staggers said.
Accompanying Dearman and Staggers is Terry Gladney, a Mississippi State employee with a rich background in theatre.
“I was brought in as a director about four and a half weeks ago,” Gladney said. “I love seeing the kids using their imagination.”
Gladney is a graduate of the High School for the Performing Arts in New York City, and obtained a degree in theatre from New York University.
Gladney said he has directed over 25 plays for adults and children over the years, and enjoys working with younger actors.
“It’s an amazing feeling to see them take direction, and then go with it,” he said. “Theatre gives these kids confidence.”
The 36 member cast ranges from sixth to eighth grade and includes Ellen Carson as Sandy; Vinny Brocato as Danny; Olivia Thompson as Rizzo; Joy Carino as French; Georgia Tucker as Patty; Genny Fischer as Marty; Rylee Burchfield as Jan; Gus Willis as Roger; Sean Mackin as Sonny; Joseph Houston as Kenickie; Trent Price as Doody; Noah Knox as Vince Fontaine; Austin Burns as Eugene; Coulten Miley as Johnny Casino; Lakendrea Young as Miss Lynch; Allexie Williams as Cha-Cha; and Matt Hutchinson as T-Bird.
The ensemble includes Savannah Abercrombie, Abby Alford, Lina Aweau, Madison Berry, DeMari Blakely, Mary Elizabeth Buckner, Josie Buntin, Carly Beth Cappleman, Kristin Hicks, Hannah King, Mary Chatham Kuykendall, Jenny Kwon, Halie Lindsey, Jycelia McKinley, Isabelle Murphy, Katie Poole, Baylor Russell, Chele Westbrook and Mary Claire Willis.
The final performance will be held 7 p.m. Saturday.