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Last Friday and Saturday the Meeker High School Drama Club presented “Grease — The Musical” to packed houses at the MHS auditorium. When director Gary Zellers stated, “This is a great group of talented kids,” he hit the nail on the head. Meeker has always boasted a great show and this year the directors and cast did not let anyone down.
Zellers gave a heartfelt thanks to all involved. After watching the performances, it is amazing what a few dedicated adults and students can put together in such a short period of time.
After the shows Gary’s wife and stage manager Laurie Zellers said, “Everyone grew as individuals because they tried and accomplished!”
Following the same storyline as the original “Grease” musical, this high school musical intertwined humor, romance and typical high school drama. Every actor and actress found their own depiction of their respective characters.
Mary Strang, who volunteers every year to help backstage and run the curtain for these productions, commented, “The kids really understood this era,” capturing the 1950’s culture on stage.
The Zellers like to encourage the kids to find their characters and give them the latitude to develop. Lathrop Hughes certainly handled a 1950’s greaser personality as the laughable Sonny Lateirri. Many spectators returned in anticipation for the second performance just to watch Hughes perform. Andrea Edinger turned in a stellar performance as she encapsulated the ever-annoying, perky Patty Simcox. Every gesture and roll of her eyes was perfectly timed. The not-so-studious characters were thoroughly irritated by staunch school principal Miss Lynch, played by Stephany Joos. Dylon Merrell and Tala Atoafa leaped into their roles with authentic suits. Playing ladies’ man Vince Fontaine, Merrell sported a light blue leisure suit. Dressed in a tuxedo, Atoafa played the role of famous entertainer Johnny Casino.
Amanda Kendall as Frenchy received the best actor prize.
“She is so present on stage … not only with her character but with the story … helping others make it through the scene, hinting lines or singing under her breath to encourage … for a seamless production,” noted the Zellers. Amanda was also the one who spent countless hours with other actors helping them learn their lines.
In an earlier interview Gary stated, “The audience has no idea what really happens behind the scenes.” This year’s production was no exception. Right before a scene an aerial antenna was needed but couldn’t be found. That’s how Caleb Dodds (playing Roger) ended up with a yardstick he found backstage.
“The boys (Dodds, Adams, Henderson and Hughes) worked the whole scene on their own and we loved their creativity,” noted the Zellers. They particularly liked Charley Adams’ creativity in the second show when he ad-libbed, “Let me measure your inseam while you kick my teeth in!”
Playing stereotypical nerd Eugene Florezyk, Justin Hardy was a crowd favorite. Several times other actors had to wait for their line because Hardy was putting on a show. He had chemistry with every character and pulled in the audience. “He was incredible … he really took his character and developed it … then stepped up to our need when the casted teen angel wasn’t able to do the part. He has great comedic timing!” the Zellers shared. During the second performance, Hardy ripped off his nerd shirt and glasses and belted out “Beauty School Dropout” for a humorous surprise. He also stole the show at the beginning of Act Two when he and Denee Chintala (Cha-Cha DiGregorio) played the perfect nervous nerd versus seductive bombshell routine. Even when he accidentally dropped his nerd glasses during the second show, Chintala added a new twist by coyly bending down to get his glasses while Hardy had a meltdown. The audience roared through this whole encounter.
Not only was the acting first-class, the vocal talents rocked the audience.
Kaylyn Edwards playing beautiful preppy Sandy Dumbrowski showcased her voice as she belted out several solos and duets. Each song found Kaylyn rocking the high notes as her character worked against being a cultural outcast. “Kudos to Kaylyn for her stepping out of her comfort zone and becoming a very memorable Sandy!” Gary and Laurie concurred.
Collin Cochran’s singing and dancing earned much applause in the part of Danny, the suave greaser who has a hard time demonstrating his love for preppy Sandy. Cochran ignited the stage as he flipped the “little bombshell” Cha-Cha, Chintala, then wowed the crowd as he poured his heart out in “Sandy, My Love.” He managed to bring down the house even with a sinus infection.
Caleb Dodds and Mariah Jensen joined forces in a comical yet sweet duet about “mooning” while playing crazy Jan and Roger “Rump,” two awkward characters who find each other. Using a hairbrush for a microphone, boy-crazy Marty, played by Maclaine Shults, crooned a pretty little number about the love of her life. Tough-as-nails Betty Rizzo was perfectly portrayed down to the attitude and accent by senior Laura Glass. Singing in character, Glass added perfect sarcasm to her songs.
J.C. Henderson as Doody strummed his guitar and wooed dingy Frenchy in a humorous love song that only the quirky Frenchy would fall for.
The Zellers enjoyed “watching J.C. blossom each practice, then nail his performance.”
On top of loads of incredible talent, the cast was also in full costume with great stage props thanks to Kim Kendall, Stacie Kincher and Mary Washburn. Backstage Taylor Bair flipped the switches for lights from scene to scene. Bob Amick oversaw all the sound and light. JR Crawford manned the sound system. Lani Mataia, Ohana Mataia, John Mac Sheridan, Reno Roybal and McKenna Kummer hustled around backstage arranging props. Even the ’50s hair was a hit. Every character had a special “do” and perfect stage makeup thanks to Laurie Zellers, Jan Nye and Stacee Edwards. Without the Cochrans and the Edingers the props would not have been as spectacular either.
The hard work of choreographers Andrea Edinger and Tala Atoafa was demonstrated in the “Teen Angel” and “School Dance” scenes. Atoafa worked with Teen Angels Elissa McLaughlin, Tristan Nielsen, Shaelin Barrow, Taylor Morris, Kaysyn Chintala, Katie Morgan, Kathryn Doll and Tia McKee. The girls were swung out on stage on platforms in a cloud of fog to background dance for Hardy as he sang “Beauty School Dropout.” The scene was a hit for the crowd. All of the Angels, plus Morgan Tegeder, Jessica Moyer, Anna George and Nicole Hilkey, wore poodle skirts as they boogied to the “Hand Jive” song. Andrea Edinger choreographed this whole dance scene which was also an audience favorite.
These plays, performed by the Meeker High school Drama Club and supported by the International Thespian Society Troupe 1284, are all part of the Meeker Arts and Cultural Council (MACC). For more information about MACC or to order an official “Grease” T-shirt, check out macc.inmeeker.com. This organization is dedicated to “inspiring and educating artists and community through promotion, advocacy and enhancement of cultural and artistic efforts.” Because of the popularity of the Meeker drama productions, folks from Rifle, Rangely and Craig joined the spectators.
The Zellers’ labor is definitely drawing a crowd year after year. After the Saturday night performance, the cast surprised Gary and Laurie with a special gift to thank them for their hours of hard work. The couple was teary-eyed. “There are no words big enough to explain our joy, happiness, pride, awe, gratefulness we feel for this experience. It is an amazing opportunity to be a part of these kids’ lives. All in all, we may be a small town but we have big talent!”
A standing ovation from the audience summed up the magnitude of aptitudes and abilities of everyone involved.