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Science teacher (and closet musical theatre fan) Humphrey Jones reviews last weekend’s performance of Grease.

I turned forty a few months back. Almost exactly one year earlier the movie Grease reached a similar milestone: it has aged far better than I have. The music still remains as catchy as ever and the dialogue is still relevant (to all audiences); it remains witty, more than a little bit rude, cheeky and full of innuendo. I have particularly fond memories of watching Grease as a young lad and aspiring to be as cool as Danny Zuko. I never was (and sadly never will be). The prospect of watching a school performance of this well-loved musical, I must admit, made me a tad nervous. How would a young cast, from Forms I right through to VI, do the classic songs, dialogue and dance routines any sort of justice? However, as it turned out, there was no need to doubt them.

The College production of Grease delighted and entertained. Performed over three cold November nights the young cast brought huge enthusiasm and energy to the stage. They sang their hearts out, danced with gusto and delivered their lines with perfect dramatic and comedic timing. As a full cast, they did remarkably well. My biggest disappointment with the original movie was that some of the characters were almost too cool, too gritty and were old beyond their years (the actors, of course, were much older than the characters they portrayed). The younger cast in this production softened the story a little which, in my opinion, was a good thing. I’m not sure if that was deliberate or not but deserved credit to the team of directors (Ronan Swift, Geraldine Malone Brady and Tristan Clarke) for nurturing the clearly natural talent of the young cast.

And what talent! The lead actors, Emily McCarthy (Sandy) and Marcus O’Connor (Danny), were both excellent. Emily’s powerful yet melodic voice perfectly suited the role and her performance of ‘Hopelessly Devoted to You’ was memorable. Marcus’s performance was natural and nuanced and it was clear he had studied Travolta’s Danny. They worked really well together, particularly as a singing partnership. It was hard to believe that they’re in Form III and IV respectively. No doubt we will see them on stage again in the coming years.

Jack Hayes (Kenickie), Abigail O’Brien (Rizzo), Songyon Oh (Marty), Peter Taylor (Doody), Leo Moreau (Sonny) and Sakhile Khumalo (Roger) were all perfectly cast and gave brilliant vocal performances. Imogen Casey (Frenchy) caught the naivety of her character superbly while Stella Jacobs (Jan) was energetic throughout (she even managed to do some cartwheels during the final number). Phoebe Grennell (Patty) was cast in her role just two weeks before the first performance but you would have never guessed; she was convincing and confident whenever she was on stage. Oscar Yan (Teen Angel) brought the house down with his rendition of ‘Beauty School Dropout’ (I still love the line “Missed your midterms and flunked shampoo”). The surprise packages were Alex Hinde (Eugene) and Nelly Ploner (Cha-Cha) who momentarily commanded the stage during their “dance” number (some say Alex may never recover). Nelly, it must be said, took a relatively minor character in the original production and brought her front and centre. As a whole, the school dance scene was brilliantly done and huge credit to Fearghal Curtis and Edel Shannon too for their clever and tight choreography of the hand-jive (and other dance numbers). All these young actors, it must be said, were supported by a strong ensemble of would-be ‘Pink Ladies’ and ‘T-Birds’. The whole cast performed with zest and without inhibition – again credit to the team of directors in facilitating this.

The cast were accompanied by an extremely slick live band and looked every bit the part thanks to Karen Hennessey and her team in the costume room. The set design was minimal with the colourful digital backdrops, projected onto the large screen behind the stage, more than adequately setting the scenes. The Art Department, in particular Lynn Murphy and her pupils, prepared some additional props including the famous Grease Lightning car. There were many more individuals involved in the production, far too numerous to mention here.

All in all, everyone involved in Grease should be extremely proud of their efforts. They took a challenging musical, with challenging themes, and more than did it justice. Everything about Grease was excellent: the music, the dancing, the singing, the acting. There have been some unforgettable College musicals in recent years (Oklahoma and Guys & Dolls come to mind) but Grease will live long in the memory for me, for many reasons. Vince Fontaine (played by Guy Fitzgibbon) famously says in GreaseIt doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s what you do with your dancin’ shoes”. This young cast clearly worked those dancin’ shoes: they were all winners!

Humphrey Jones (Teacher & closet musical theatre fan)

Elizabeth Hart, Form I, reflects on her experience in this year’s Junior Play.

The Junior Play this year was called The Happy Journey by Thornton Wilder. Emily McCarthy, Kate Higgins, Cameron McKinley, Wolfgang Romanowski, Malachy Murphy and I were the actors. Emily played the part of the mum, Cameron as the dad, Malachy as the son Arthur, and I played the daughter, Caroline. Wolfgang was “the stage manager” and Kate was Beulah, my big sister. This play was about a family going on a trip to visit the older sister in a neighbouring state of the USA. Later we learn Beulah had given birth to a baby, but the baby had died soon after it was born.

The Happy Journey operates as a play within a play (almost), so we all pretended to be actors performing. At the start we pretended to be preparing for the play and Wolfgang was telling us all to get ready. The only props we had in the play were four chairs which were our ‘car’. The rest were imaginary so we talked to imaginary people, pointed at imaginary billboards and Cameron turned an imaginary steering wheel.

We had about 3 weeks to prepare for the play and, at the start, it felt kind of relaxed. As the days went on, it got more serious as we got our costumes and learned the script by heart. Near the night of performing it became tenser and the practices became a lot longer.

On Thursday a couple of people came to watch the dress rehearsal and it was the first real audience we had. It was a bit nerve-wracking, but we didn’t mess up our lines or any stage directions.

Friday came and we were all nervous. When people started to come in there was loads of noise and suddenly I got really nervous. When I walked out on stage my legs were shaking and it was more muscle memory than anything else that got me through to the end. It is a short play so it passed by very quickly. The actual performance only felt like 5 minutes!

Saturday night came and I wasn’t as nervous as before, but I wasn’t exactly relaxed. We went through the play and when I said my last line and ran off the stage it felt really good. When Emily and Kate came off, we went to the front of the stage, took our bow and we had finished the play completely.

Being in the play was a very good experience as it made me more confident in speaking in front of a crowd and was a bit of fun. Our thanks to Mr Swift and Mr Jameson for directing it.

Below are a series of photographs, taken by Rev Owen, from the performance.

The performances of this year’s Senior Play, The Nose, take place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week in the BSR, starting every evening at 7pm. The Nose is a satirical short story by Nikolai Gogol written during his time living in St. Petersburg. During this period, Gogol’s works were primarily focused on surrealism and the grotesque, with a romantic twist. Written between 1835 and 1836, The Nose tells the story of a St. Petersburg official whose nose leaves his face and develops a life of its own…this version was adapted for stage by Tom Swift and first staged in Dublin in 2008. This year’s play is directed by Ronan Swift.

Cast

  • Major Kovalyov – Caoimhe Cleary
  • The Nose/Smirnov – Daniel Ayoade
  • Father – Eile Ni Chianain
  • Podtochina – Oda Michel
  • Olga, her daughter – Charlotte Moffitt
  • Governor Rachkin – Maybelle Rainey
  • Katerina, his daughter – Dimitro Kasianenko
  • Ivan, the barber – Avouka Assebian
  • Praskovya, his wife – Sveva Ciofani
  • Policeman – Elise Williams
  • Small Ads Clerk – Margot Aleixandre
  • Reporter – Aiyuni O’Grady
  • Surgeon – Sinead Cleary
  • Theatre Nurse – Raphaela Ihuoma