Ferndale High School freshman McKenna Voss can confidently say she loves the theater.
The 14-year-old, who is one of almost 80 students preparing for the upcoming performance of Grease, said she loves getting up on stage and feeding off the energy of a live performance. She also enjoys working with teacher Melissa Smith and the friends she has made by being involved in school theater.
"I like meeting all the people," said Voss, who is serving as one of three student directors for the spring musical, which runs March 17-18 and March 23-25 at the high school. "It's like you gain a whole family."
When Voss first got involved in theater as a seventh grader, she was slightly apprehensive about stepping into a group of high schoolers and being among the youngest kids there. But with a little push from drama teacher Smith – "She told me, 'Why don't you try out?'" Voss recalls – she decided to give it a shot.
She's glad she did: "You're quickly accepted in and make friends," Voss said.
The cast of Grease is rehearsing daily after school for the upcoming production, and Ferndale High School musical producer Judy Donlin said the students are having a great time.
"Grease offers a chance for the high school kids of 2012 to live a little bit like the high school kids of 1959," she said. "And they are having a blast. They're going to make it fun for the audience, too."
Grease features themes of teenage love, friendship, rebellion and pastimes as characters go through their senior school year at Rydell High trying to fit in, have fun and support each other.
The play will incorporate some aspects of the 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, such as the song "You're the One That I Want." A drag race will not be included but Greased Lightning will be featured.
Students look forward to taking the stage
Ferndale senior Tyler Hoch, 18, will play the lead male role, Danny. Hoch said he has been involved in FHS theater since he was a freshman.
"It was my last one so I figured I might as well go big or go home," he said with a laugh. "It's really fun and it's a lot of work, but it's worth it."
Leading lady Sandy is played by Ferndale sophomore Joanna Gaden, 15. She says she was thrilled when she found out the role was hers. "I was really happy, like ecstatic," she said.
Gaden said she's nervous to be playing the lead part but is having lots of fun already. "It's really great," she said.
Harmoni Sargent, 18, another student director, said she was enjoying preparing for the musical. "It's a great place to go after school and hang out with friends," the Ferndale senior said. "You also learn a lot."
Sargent said she hopes people will come to the show and see the hard work the students have put in. And, of course, "It's Grease," Sargent said. "Everyone should go see Grease."
First 'Grease' performance for FHS
This is the first performance of Grease for Ferndale High School, producer Donlin said. It was chosen not only for its music but also the wide range of vocal talent it required, from soprano to baritones, and unique features like a vintage car and the use of a rock band instead of a string and brass pit orchestra.
"It's a show that everyone knows and is almost universally liked," she said. "It crosses generations and has some wonderful catchy music."
Donlin pointed out that FHS Theater has a great reputation for putting on high caliber shows. "We have an outstanding fine arts program, so the singing, dancing and music are some of the highest quality in the area," she said.
Theater students learn responsibility, teamwork
In addition to acting, singing, dancing and staging, Ferndale students involved in Grease are learning responsibility, Donlin said.
"It's a great experience because the kids have to work together to make the show a success," she said. "We believe that each person contributes to the quality of the show no matter what the role."
Theater teacher Melissa Smith, who is directing Grease, said students are learning about being a part of a collaborative and cooperative process where many individual contributions relate to a common goal.
"It's an incredible amount of work and effort, but the end product is something everyone can say they had a part in," she said, pointing out that if one piece doesn't work the whole show doesn't work. "Because of this, the students and parents involved have a great deal of personal pride in the final product, along with a real sense of accomplishment."
'Everybody knows Grease'
Ferndale senior Sierra Onickel will play the memorable role of Rizzo, one of the Pink Ladies. "It's really fun," said Onickel, who has been involved in theater since the age of 8. "I love our director."
As for why people should come out to see the show later this month: "It's just a really good show," she said. "I think it's even better than the movie, too."
Ferndale senior Sarah McElroy said she has been singing, dancing and acting since sixth grade. She has the role of Marty, another Pink Lady. "Everybody knows Grease," she said. "It's a really fun show for everyone."
If you go
- Dates: March 17, 18, 23, 24, 25
- Times: Friday and Saturday performances are 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 3 p.m.
- Ages: Open to all ages
- Tickets: $7 per adult, $5 for students and senior citizens, $3 for children younger than 12
- For more information: Call Ferndale High School at 248-586-8600 or visit http://ferndaletheatre.org/.