'Grease' still a favorite of teens

Published May 3, 2007

Although the musical Grease has been around for more than 35 years, it's still an all-time favorite with high school thespians. Not just because of its bubbly salute to the music and pop culture of the 1950s, but for the simple fact that it mirrors real teenage life.

Sure, the ducktail hairstyles and poodle skirts seem dated. And the dialogue is, at best, pretty goofy. But as far as Margo Stewart is concerned, the story line for the musical could have easily been written in the hallways of her own school.

"That's why kids love it, " said Stewart, a junior who stars in this weekend's production of Grease at Hernando High School. "You have cliques of good kids and bad kids all around the school. They may not look like the kids in Grease, but they're still here. Nothing has really changed."

Another thing that hasn't changed, said Hernando High drama director Chris Fickley, is the high-revving musical's ability to bring out the best in young actors.

"They tend to do that with material that they can relate to, " Fickley said. "Somehow I knew that these kids would put everything into the production. They've worked hard at it, and it shows."

Indeed, the 26-member cast has been hard at work the past nine weeks on the school's largest stage production since Fickley signed on as drama teacher in 2005. Although previous productions, which include The Diary of Anne Frank, Harvey, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and the Wizard of Oz, were great confidence boosters, it was only after being assured by his students' diligence that Fickley agreed to put together a version of Grease.

"Because it's so dance- and music-driven you have to have cast members who are willing to commit to it all the way, " Fickley said. "If you're going to do it, you've got to do it right."

Despite being filled with bouncy and fun dance and vocal numbers, Grease delves deeply into themes such as love and friendship while boldly tackling issues such as teen pregnancy, gang violence and class consciousness. Although Fickley tamed the original Broadway script to make it more family-friendly, he dismisses any notion that the story is too jolting for teen eyes.

"It's a story about life and the choices that people make, " Fickley said. "It's the stuff that kids have to deal with that every day."

Hernando High senior Seth Spencer plays the role of ultra-cool Danny Zuko, who falls in love with the prim and proper Sandy Dumbrowski. And though he admits he has little in common with his character, Spencer has enjoyed exploring the part of the leather-jacketed gang leader.

"Playing a role like that makes you want to really try to connect with the audience, because it's so different than your own personality, " he said. "I think everyone who sees can identify with Danny. In the end he's the one who seems to learn the most."

Logan Neill can be reached at 848-1435 or lneill@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts:

If you go

The Hernando High School drama department will present the musical Grease at 7:30 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Hernando High School Performing Arts Center, 700 Bell Ave., Brooksville, Tickets are $8. Call 797-7015.