West Orange High’s Production of ‘Grease’


credit: west orange twitter

This April, the West Orange High School Theater and Music Department premiered their long awaited production of the classical musical, ‘Grease’ and I had the privilege of witnessing the show on opening night from front row seats. The cast and crew of the show had been working on it for months and their hard work shows.

As someone who grew up watching ‘Grease’ with my family, I looked forward to this year’s musical more than ever and it did not disappoint. From the moment the cast stepped out to do the “morning announcements,” the audience was transported to 1950s Rydell High. As the show progresses, we are introduced to a cast of quirky characters. 

Rydell High’s resident gang of delinquents call themselves the “Burger Palace Boys” in this school edition of the play and consist of Sonny Lateirri (Josh Elgin), Roger (James Felton), Doody (Charlie Peterson), Kenickie (Carlos Henriquez), and their leader, Danny Zuko (Justus Wheatley). The actors portraying these characters embodied the lovable troublemakers and garnered lots of laughter from the audience every time they took the stage. Aside from providing comedic relief, these actors were truly talented singers and performers. One of my favorite moments was when seniors Charlie Peterson and James Felton showed off their vocals in a duet performance of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Queen.” 

Opposite the Burger Palace Boys are the Pink Ladies, their female counterparts, who enjoy slumber parties, smack talking, and boys. Made up by Frenchy (Paige Palent), Marty (Nia Caesar), Jan (played by understudy Joelle Robertson), and their fierce leader Betty Rizzo (Delia Kravits). Every single Pink Lady embodied their distinct characters to the fullest and had amazing vocal performances. Nia Caesar’s rendition of “Freddy My Love” was impressive and entertaining to watch. After Delia Kravits’ emotional performance of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” the crowd erupted in applause. Kravits’ skillful acting as well as her jaw dropping vocal performance warranted this reaction. 

One of the driving forces of the musical was the chemistry between castmates. James Felton and Joelle Robertson, whose characters get together during the play, successfully portrayed two awkward young lovers and got many “awww”s from the audience. Their duet, “Mooning” was cute, funny, and extremely vocally impressive. The show’s leading couple, Sandy and Danny, played by Madison Gough and Justus Wheatley wowed in each of their numbers. Gough’s heartbreaking emotion during “Hopelessly Devoted” and “It’s Raining on Prom Night” made it even more satisfying to see the couple get together at the end, and sing “You’re The One That I Want.” Wheatley is able to get the crowd to hate Danny for breaking Sandy’s heart, but also feel for him, and understand the character’s complex personality as a misunderstood bad boy. 

The play’s supporting characters were some of my personal favorites. Shea Donagher’s Eugene was the perfect comic relief throughout the play. Everytime he took the stage the crowd was sure to laugh. Elena Hause’s Teen Angel stole the show during her performance of “Beauty School Dropout.” This dramatic number was ridden with high notes and Hause hit eachone with ease. Other notable characters include Vince Fontaine played by Jack Harwood, Johnny Casino played by Will Fifield, Cha Cha played by Nakhayla Green, and Patty Simcox played by Mia Peretz. These characters helped solidify the Rydell High atmosphere.

This show could not have been the success it was without the amazing costuming and set design. The hair, makeup, and dress of each character really captured the style of the 50s in America. The set played into many of the most iconic aspects of the movie and play. The infamous car ‘Grease Lightning’ was a highlight of the set design. The car was hidden behind a garage set until it was unveiled and wheeled out to center stage for “Grease Lightning.” This was one of the jaw-dropping moments that made the musical so memorable. Another one of these moments was when Elena Hause appeared out of the garage enveloped in smoke for “Beauty School Dropout.” The combination of her all-white suit and the fog created a dreamy mood and made it one of my personal favorite numbers of the show.

The cast and crew of this year’s musical should be proud of the outcome of all their hard work. This show will go down as one of West Orange High School’s best spring musical productions.