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posted: 2/26/2013 3:00 PM

'Grease' is the word at South Elgin High School

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  • Kenickie and Danny in a scene from South Elgin High School's production of "Grease." From left are Bradley Smith and Nick LaMore.

      Kenickie and Danny in a scene from South Elgin High School's production of "Grease." From left are Bradley Smith and Nick LaMore.
    Courtesy of James H. Lehman

  • The "Grease" cast sings "We Go Together." From left: Sarah Welz, Emmalee Gutowsky, Joseph Beaty, Brett Meyer, Joelle Kasprisin, Nick LaMore, Haley Panico, Bradley Smith, Brad Wendt, Karen Almanza, Justin Santostefano, Hannah Niesley and Hannah Schutzkus.

      The "Grease" cast sings "We Go Together." From left: Sarah Welz, Emmalee Gutowsky, Joseph Beaty, Brett Meyer, Joelle Kasprisin, Nick LaMore, Haley Panico, Bradley Smith, Brad Wendt, Karen Almanza, Justin Santostefano, Hannah Niesley and Hannah Schutzkus.
    Courtesy of James H. Lehman

  • During a rehearsal for South Elgin High School's musical, "Grease," Kenickie tells the guys about his new ride, "Greased Lightning." Front, from left, are Justin Santostefano, Bradley Smith, and Brad Wendt; second row, from left, are Brett Meyer, Daniel Mikhail and Joseph Beaty.

      During a rehearsal for South Elgin High School's musical, "Grease," Kenickie tells the guys about his new ride, "Greased Lightning." Front, from left, are Justin Santostefano, Bradley Smith, and Brad Wendt; second row, from left, are Brett Meyer, Daniel Mikhail and Joseph Beaty.
    Courtesy of James H. Lehman

  • In a scene from South Elgin High School's production of "Grease," Sandy tries to fit in with the Pink Ladies. From left are Joelle Kasprisin, Haley Panico and Emmalee Gutowsky.

      In a scene from South Elgin High School's production of "Grease," Sandy tries to fit in with the Pink Ladies. From left are Joelle Kasprisin, Haley Panico and Emmalee Gutowsky.
    Courtesy of James H. Lehman

 
James H. Lehman

Who can resist the catchy, upbeat songs of the 1950s when rock 'n' roll was new and teenagers for the first time were creating their own culture?

And how could a group of today's teens resist the chance to relive that astonishing and vibrant era?

Ask the students at South Elgin High School who are putting on the musical "Grease."

"While set in the 1950s, 'Grease' is really a musical about the struggles and rebellions that most teenagers experience," said staging director and SEHS English teacher Carrie Crowe. "This is why the show has remained popular. Anybody who has experienced the teen years in American culture can identify with the show's plot line.

"The characters in 'Grease' are stereotypes of the cliques that have existed in high school for six decades: the jock, the cheerleader, the nerd, the outcast, the spinster teacher," Crowe continued, though she thinks today's students are better at transcending these roles.

To prepare, Crowe and music director Karen Brhel, who is the SEHS orchestra and choir director, asked the leads to do research on 1950s attitudes, fads, dress and hair styles and report to the rest of the cast, which spent several rehearsals practicing movements and gestures of the period.

Brhel and Mary Crum, costume director, have worked to find just the right costumes. Crum held a "Poodle Party" one day after rehearsal so students could make their own poodle skirts.

Leads for the show are Joelle Kasprisin as Sandy, Nick LaMore as Danny, Haley Panico as Rizzo and Bradley Smith as Kenickie.

The greatest challenge has been to position all 100 singers, dancers, and players of the huge cast so each student can have his or her moment onstage. The audience will enjoy seeing how many students are featured in addition to the leads.

Music for the show will be provided by an onstage five-piece combo directed by Brhel. The choreography has been created by Renee Heitman. Student directors Luz Almanza and Kiela Saucedo help keep things organized.

Karen Almanza and Justin Santostefano, two students from the SEHS broadcast communications academy, filmed an original movie in the style of 1950s horror flicks, which will be shown in the drive-in movie scene.

South Elgin High School is known for its musicals, and Crowe and Brhel have had a long and fruitful collaboration. "Grease" is their seventh musical as co-directors, and each year's production improves on the last.

But they've had a lot of help, for which they are grateful.

"We could not accomplish this without the assistance of many dedicated, creative, and willing parents," Crowe said.

This year parents are busy finding costumes and props, creating sets, selling tickets, handling concessions, and setting up and staffing the ice cream parlor, which will be an added attraction in the foyer between Saturday's matinee and evening shows.

Performances of the all-ages show are set for 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Feb. 28 and March 1; and 2 p.m. Saturday, March 2 at South Elgin High School, 760 E. Main St. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets in advance, call Carrie Crowe at (847) 289-3760, ext. 3409; or email carriecrowe@u-46.org.

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