‘Grease’ premieres tonight, actors and crew weigh in


The stage is brightly lit and the ensemble cast vibrantly dressed in ‘50s garb practices a dance routine to the music of “Summer Nights.” This is one of the last rehearsals before the show opens and the cast and crew are staying focused and dedicated to ironing out any rough edges left from months of hard work.

When audiences line up Thursday night to see the Department of Theatre and Dance’s fall musical “Grease,” they will see the fruits of months of labor for theater students. Despite the trials of assembling a large scale musical such as “Grease,” an atmosphere of unity and friendship between the cast and crew fills the auditorium at rehearsal. This becomes clear when talking to sophomore theater student, Noah Berry, who portrays Danny Zuko.

“The rehearsal process with the cast has been great,” said Berry. “I’ve grown to know and love so many of the cast members.”
In his first play at Northern Kentucky University, Berry has already found a challenging role in Danny. Berry revealed that he isn’t a dancer; in a role that requires a great amount of it. Several cast members didn’t have dance experience before “Grease.”

“I had no dance training,” said Berry, “but the choreographer was able to keep us together and where we needed to be.”
The dance choreographer for “Grease” is assistant professor and head of the dance department, Jane Green. Green curtailed period research for the play by bringing her own life experience to the table. She was a teenager in 1959, the year the play is set.

Planning the dance routines can be a burdensome task, especially with students who are not trained to dance. Despite the trials, Green expresses confidence in her young cast.
“Each dance has to tell the story of each individual song,” said Green. “Every minute of music is equivalent to one hour it takes to set the choreography.”

Sound design plays an integral role in “Grease.” NKU student Kevin Semancik is the sound designer for the play. For “Grease” he utilized 25 pieces of audio to create the sound effects for the production, with a five-piece band reinforcing the ‘50s rock sound during musical numbers and set changes. His job also includes balancing the microphones of 19 different performers on stage.

“A lot of the work I have to do can’t be done until I get the actors and the band together for a full run of the show, which doesn’t happen until the week before opening,” said Semancik.
Audiences will be able to see the hefty and colorful stage that is adorned with large multi-colored 45 rpm discs and an elevated platform centerstage decorated with a facsimile jukebox display.
The assembly for the stage began in October and captures the mood of the era, with names such as Johnny Mathis and Ricky Nelson hanging behind the actors.

The 45 disc idea was scenic designer Ron Shaw’s idea: “I remembered those color vinyl 45s from my childhood and thought that might be a good way to start the process for the show,” said Shaw. “They were colorful and seemed to fit into the idea of the show nicely.”

The cast seems to light up around the director, Michael Hatton, whose soft touch with his cast is all that’s needed to get things right. Senior musical theater student, Harli Cooper plays Sandy Dumbrowski. Despite her difficulty in finding the right singing register for her character, she compliments Hatton for his ability to connect with her.
“He gives a lot of freedom as a director and leaves specifics up to you,” said Cooper. “The first few weeks of rehearsals he let me explore and hasn’t pigeonholed me in a certain direction.”