‘Grease’ lights up Nansemond River’s stage

Published 11:24 pm Thursday, April 30, 2009

It was pitch black in the Nansemond River High School auditorium, except for a few bright color spotlights rotating on the giant curtain masking the school stage.

Soon, a large wooden car rolled through the middle of the curtain and, in an instant, the once-dark auditorium was alive with flashing lights and dozens of dancers in leather jackets or pink shirts singing “Greased Lightning.”

On Monday night, the cast and crew of the school’s production of “Grease” were hours into their last week of rehearsals.

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“It’s been an experience,” said stage manager Katie Celeste. “It’s a very popular show, and so many people loved it and wanted to be a part of it. It’s just been an experience working with these different people on a show like this.”

The school’s theater program is far from being new to such productions.

For two of the past three years, the school has garnered state recognition for its individual actors as well as group productions.

This year, the students are looking for similar success for Grease, which may be possible, since Director Joleen Neighbors said it boils down to the fact she has “really good students.”

“They are energetic and incredibly talented,” she wrote in a recent email. “It makes it easy to do my job. One of the best things is that they are starting to really understand ‘artistic vision’ and working toward a common goal.”

But to tackle such a beloved classic was at first intimidating for some of the actors.

“It was a little scary at first,” said Robyn Burcham, who plays Rizzo in the production. “But it’s actually a lot of fun, because people are always asking about it and when they find out who you are, they get all excited. They’ll say, ‘She was my favorite!’”

The production will run for two weeks, with shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as May 7, 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. Additionally, on May 2 and 9 there will be matinees at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for students. All of the proceeds from the play will benefit the theater program at Nansemond River.

The cast and crew have been working throughout the spring making the play’s sets and rehearsing for the big debut, as well as becoming better friends.

“The play is great,” Burcham said. “But the best part of it is in the movie they become one big family, and that’s exactly how we are now. We’ve become one big family working on this play together.”

Celeste agreed.

“It’s just been wonderful to all be able to work on this together and watch it come together as well as it has. It’s a really great show, and it’s going to come out really well.”