A former Columbus North High School behind-the-scenes theater techie can forgo acting when she takes the stage for the first time in the opening scene of the school’s production of the mega-hit musical, “Grease,” from Friday through Sunday.
Amy Jackson, a 1986 graduate, will be among a number of actual alumni believing that “Grease” is the word when they assemble for the play’s classic high school reunion gathering set in 1974.
Director Julie Hult, who triggered the rad grad idea and then spread the word via social media and other outlets, has used the concept in previous theater productions.
Jackson really will use a bit of the time to catch up with classmates such as Andrew Ranck. So she truly will be reminiscing and not pretending when she sees former peers gathered with her for the show.
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“Theater forms some of my fondest memories of all of high school,” said Jackson, who ran lights or sound for a range of shows and a fog machine for another in the mid-1980s, which is is how she met future husband Ben. “So this really will be like a reunion for me.”
Keeping things 70s-ish should be as simple as wide bell bottoms, as she sees it.
“You just flash to almost any memory of ‘The Brady Bunch,’” Jackson said, referring to the period TV show.
After the socializing scene, “Grease” flashes back to 1959 and tells the story of a group of Rydell High School teens known in slang as greasers. The Burger Palace Boys aim to be cool, the Pink Ladies turn on the sex appeal, and before you can say “greased lightning,” lead characters Sandy (Blair Bledsoe) and Danny (Nathan Patton) are becoming hopelessy devoted to each other.
One reviewer has called the stage presentation of what also was a 1978 smash movie “a satire of high schoolers’ age-old desire to be rebellious and provocative.”
Hult mentioned that students today still relate to the story primarily because of that, along with challenges ranging from fitting in to teen pregnancy. Bledsoe connected with a few elements of the show even as a kid and always dreamed of playing Sandy.
“I grew up watching ‘Grease,’” Bledsoe said. “They (the Pink Ladies) all have their insecurities, and that really comes through clearly on the first day of school. I think it’s awesome to get to see it.”
Bledsoe, a senior in her final performance, loves the thought of former greasers and other ex-theater personnel returning for the opening scene and the title song. She herself can imagine coming back years from now if someone extended the invitation to relive her thespian glory.
“Oh, definitely — I would make the trip,” she said, adding that she loves the way some North productions in the past, and even the North-organized “American Pie” annual concert, pulls in community members.
Though “Grease” made its Broadway debut in 1972, the show enjoyed a bit of a fresh approach with the televised “Grease: Live!” with Julianne Hough as Sandy on the FOX network Jan. 31.
“Most of our kids were raised on ‘High School Musical’ which, of course, has its roots in ‘Grease,’” Hult said. “The FOX version helped bring the story to a new audience — including our students.”
Hult is uncertain how many retrospective reunioners will show up for the production’s initial scene, but she does know one thing for sure.
“For every person who is getting excited about this opportunity, there is a look,” Hult said. “It’s like the person is replaying a memory for a split second. How fun.
“Let’s think about how memory works. Don’t we all look back on high school and remember things as just a bit bigger, bolder and more broken than they really were?”
Sandy, Danny and their friends would understand. They’ll sing about that very idea this weekend.
You’ll hear it in the theme song in a couple of straightforward lines:
It’s got a groove, it’s got a meaning …
Grease is the way we are feeling.
What: Columbus North High School’s production of the musical “Grease,” following high schoolers through challenges, hurdles and love.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
Where: North’s Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St.
Lead characters: Sandy (Blair Bledsoe), Danny (Nathan Patton).
Pink Ladies — Rizzo (Brittany Davis), Frenchy (Grace Terry), Marty (Shelby Bricker) and Jan (Emily Sipes).
Burger Palace Boys — Kenickie (Justin Spoon), Doody (Ciaran Hill), Roger (Jacob Rudzinski) and Sonny (Josh Johnson).
Tickets: $6 in advance at bcsc.k12.in.us/northdrama or 812-376-4236. Or $8 at the door.
Director Julie Hult is still open for more general theater alumni or ex-“Grease” performers in the area to take the stage for opening high school reunion scene.
People can meet at the theater at 6:30 p.m. Friday or Saturday, or 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Musical members will meet extras in the lobby and take you to a quick rehearsal and wardrobe.
Hult will walk people through the entrance and exit, then have them join the cast for warm-ups.
Those with questions can send her a message on Facebook.