Tonawanda News

March 6, 2014

THS performs "Grease" this weekend

THS stages classic musical this weekend, eyes elusive Kenny Award

By Amy Wallace amy.wallace@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A favorite of students and staff alike, Tonawanda Middle and High School’s musical performance will be a classic and this year — and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The school will present the musical “Grease” beginning tonight through Saturday at the Tonawanda Alumni Auditorium, 600 Fletcher St.

The musical is produced by Daniel Lynch, art teacher at the school, and directed by alumna Maura Nolan, with vocal direction by Kelly Ersing and choreography by Vanessa Alaimo.

“A group of us came together to decide on doing ‘Grease,’” Lynch said. “The students have been wanting to do ‘Grease’ for a while.”

Lynch, who took over heading up the musicals five years ago, explained that it takes a while to go through the process of getting the rights to do the musical.

“‘Grease’ is a popular show,” Lynch said. “The school performed ‘Grease’ back in 2006 and once prior to that.”

Lynch explained that although the show will have most of the music from the movie version, the production itself will be more like the musical version with the T-Birds being known as the Burger Palace Boys. But he said that the Pink Ladies are still the Pink Ladies.

Nolan, who actually played the female lead, Sandy, in the school’s 2006 production of “Grease,” directed last year’s performance of “Little Shop of Horrors.”

“There are more leads to work with in ‘Grease’ than in ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’” Nolan said. “It’s a show about camaraderie, friendship and puppy love — that stage in your life.”

Nolan has been working with the program for the last few years.

“All the Sandys have come back to direct the show,” Lynch said. “I expect our Sandy this year to come back in a few years, too.”

This time Sandy is being played by Erin Burris and Danny, the male lead, is being played by Zach Riviera, both juniors.

Both Burris and Riviera are no strangers to the stage. Burris played Dorothy in an eighth-grade production of “Wizard of Oz” and was Chiffon in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

Riviera had more of a behind-the-scenes role in “Little Shop of Horrors” working as the puppeteer for the plant Audrey II.

“This is my third musical,” Riviera said. “The first, I was on stage crew, but I still count that. But this is my first lead role. I was so excited and so happy when I found out I got Danny. I’ve always wanted to play Danny.”

Riviera and Burris, friends before the casting, both believed the other would get the lead.

“It is amazingly exhausting but I’m so happy to be a part of it,” Riviera said. 

The production includes a cast of 35 students and total of 55 students between the cast, crew and pit orchestra. Auditions were held in November and rehearsals began shortly thereafter. 

“The key to ‘Grease’ is playing off each other,” Burris said. “In ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ the parts were more individual. Here, there is more of a group.”

What makes this year’s production extra special is that the show has been nominated for the prestigious Kenny Awards, which recognize local schools for excellence in producing and performing musicals.

The 21st annual awards will be presented at Shea’s Performing Arts Center and The Lipke Foundation on May 10. The cast will perform at Shea’s along with other competing schools and the winner will be announced that night.

“So that puts more pressure on us,” Lynch said. “The Kenny Awards are like the Tony Awards with eight to 10 schools competing from Erie County. But it’s a huge honor and the kids are really excited.”

At Tonawanda High School, three Kenny trophies stand in the glass cases outside the auditorium. The school has consistently applied for the awards during their history and has been a finalist three or four times.

Tonawanda’s prior three Kenny awards were for a classical interpretation of “Oliver” in 2009, costuming for “Anything Goes” in 2008 and choreography for “Grease” in 1998. The school has yet to win the best overall performance award, “The Kenny.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $7 for students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door or at www.seatyourself.biz/tonawandacsd.

IF YOU GO WHAT: "Grease" WHEN: 7 p.m. tonight and Friday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday WHERE: Tonawanda Alumni Auditorium, 600 Fletcher St., Tonawanda. TICKETS: Available for $7 at the door or at www.seatyourself.biz/tonawandacsd