‘Grease’ at NRHS next week

Published 9:35 pm Friday, April 28, 2017

Suffolk high school students will perform the story and music of an American classic next week.

Nansemond River High School students will perform “Grease” for the school’s annual spring musical May 4-6. Fifty students of the NRHS performing arts company will sing and dance to music from the 1978 film and Broadway show as they act out the story on stage.

Director and Fine Arts Chair Joleen Neighbours said this will be her third time directing “Grease” in her 15 years teaching. She said the students clamored do a production of the 1950s hijinks and romance.

Email newsletter signup

“All the students really wanted the chance to be in ‘Grease,’” Neighbours said.

Emily McCown, a 17-year-old NRHS senior, will play one of the leads in high-school student Sandy Dumbrowski.

“She’s a goody two shoes who falls for a leather-wearing guy that smokes cigarettes,” McCown said.

The leather and cigarette smoke of local “greaser” Danny Zuko will be brought to the stage by 18-year-old senior Zachary Doleman.

“He’s cool and plays it easy, but he doesn’t want anyone to know that he has real emotions for a girl,” Doleman said.

The students have met for three- to four-hour rehearsals at least four times a week since March. This play will be the first for some of them, such as 17-year-old senior Lauryn McNeal.

“I’m very excited,” said McNeal, who will pull double-duty as both the guardian angel to the character Frenchy, and as school dance entertainer Jonni Lee.

McNeal said she was surprised by the chemistry and camaraderie of all the student actors. For others in the production, the feeling is mutual.

“We’re a family here,” said Siarah Bighum, an 18-year-old senior playing one of the “Pink Ladies.”

Doleman is also in his first year with the student performing arts company. He said he was hesitant at first, but he came around at the insistence of friends.

“I love it,” he said. “I’m a little upset I didn’t find it years before.”

Some upperclassmen are feeling bittersweet, as they’re in their final year of school and their last season performing with their friends.

“It’s sad to leave all the underclassmen,” said 18-year-old senior Jaiyla Lewis. “You grow such a bond.”

McCown said the theater provided opportunities for students to get to know one another outside of their social circles during school hours.

“We all connect through theater,” she said. “In theater, I’m more outgoing. The theater helps everyone make new friends.”

That teamwork is crucial to the performance, according to Neighbours.

“Everybody is equally important, and if one person falls apart, the whole thing falls apart,” she said.

She said audiences next week will enjoy the chemistry of these young actors and sing along to songs they know well.

“The music is catchy, and everybody sings along and enjoys themselves,” she said. “Everybody knows the music.”

Showtime will be at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the NRHS auditorium. Tickets for general admission will be $10 and $5 for students and Suffolk Public Schools staff.