Tell Me More: Theatre South Returns In Person With Grease


Melanie Ranieri

“I got chills, they’re multiplying. And I’m losing control. ‘Cause the power you’re supplying . . . It’s electrifying.” Whether you’re singing the rest of the lyrics in your head or you’ve never heard this song in your life, chances are you would love to see Theatre South’s production of Grease. This 1950s story about teenagers in love is one of the world’s most popular and enduring musicals. 

Eager to get back on the South High stage, Theatre South will perform Grease on Friday, Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 20. at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Due to limited capacity, they’re also opening up a dress rehearsal to faculty on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

When selecting this year’s musical, Ms. Ilana Meredith, theatre director and drama teacher, wanted a recognizable show with many fun characters. “With the sadness of last year and not being able to perform, I chose Grease as I wanted to have a fun, upbeat musical.” 

Preparing for the school musical takes substantial time and effort. The audition process begins during the first few weeks of the school year and includes singing, acting and dancing. This is followed by nine weeks of rehearsals. Practices for the ensemble include learning the songs and dances. Ms. Meredith holds separate practices for the leads and speaking roles. As opening night approaches, rehearsal time increases and the entire cast stays late after school. 

While performing a full-length musical is always challenging, this year the performers are dealing with the additional challenge of wearing masks. Musical performances are physically intense, especially an energetic show like Grease that includes flipping, turning, and dancing for hours. Anyone who has worn a mask for even 30 minutes of Physical Education class knows how difficult it is to wear a mask when you’re breathing heavily. According to senior cast member Kara Laufer, “intense dances leave sweat stagnant on the face.” 

Wearing masks also makes it difficult to portray facial expressions, which are crucial to conveying a character’s emotion. However, according to Ms. Meredith, even if masks cover half the face, actors are still able to convey facial expressions. Laufer added, “If anything, [mask wearing] will teach me to do makeup above the nose!”

Audience members can also expect the seating arrangements to be different from the pre-COVID Theatre South experience. To ensure social distancing, tickets for each performance are being limited to 160. To accommodate additional interest, two performances have been added: a Saturday 2 p.m. matinee and a Wednesday dress rehearsal for faculty.

Although wearing masks during a musical performance is not ideal, many performers have chosen to see this challenge as an opportunity for growth. “We learn to work with and around challenges [masks]to get done what needs to be done [the show]. We also learn to connect with our fellow cast mates despite our face-coverings. It’s all about perseverance,” Laufer said.

No matter what looks different this year, one thing remains undoubtedly the same: the performers’ excitement about being on stage. If anything, COVID has increased their enthusiasm. “Not being able to perform for two years has brought out the love we all have for being on stage, and that energy radiates in our performances. I think the audience will feel that excitement and truly love Grease!” said junior cast member Maia Mehring. 

At the end of the day, this passion is what matters most. “The cast and crew is more excited than ever to be back doing what we love together,” said senior Alice Tirakian.