Yesterday, I started helping out on a production of everyone's favorite set-in-1959-at-Rydell-High-School musical 'Grease.' It is being performed in English by students of the Centro Cultural Paraguayo Americano (CCPA). The actors range in age from 13 to 17 or so. The director is in college and has done a few shows before at the CCPA, most notably a rendition of 'Phantom of the Opera.' Needless to say, it is a young production. Even the dance choreographer cannot be more than 21.
What I did not know before I volunteered to assist in any way I could (i.e. sight unseen) is that along with 'Phantom', 'Grease' will be performed using playback. This is a seldom used technique where all of the songs are not performed by the actors, but instead the professionally recorded cd is played on loud speakers. This allows actors who cannot quite hit those high notes to not have to quite hit those high notes. Hence, playback is very beneficial for that obvious reason. It also allows for a production that could not have happened otherwise. However, playback presents a very obvious drawback: it completely disconnects the the show from itself. In other words, during the songs the actors onstage cease being their characters and instead become glorified lip-syncing, karaoke performing puppets. While this might not come across as the most dire thing in the world, it has the potential to completely devastate an otherwise decent show. Playback is always a last resort, and one that should be approached with extreme caution. A general rule of thumb, especially in musical theatre, is if the talent ain't there, don't do it.
Having said all that, I must be fair and say that the director in fact did not choose 'Grease.' A colleague of his basically told him that he was going to do 'Grease' and that was that. Guess I should have mentioned that little tidbit before.
As I was saying, I am now helping out on the production. After watching my first rehearsal I have to say that this show has a looong way to go before its July 22 opening. Granted, I am not expecting Lawrence Olivier spouting Hamlet. To be honest, I am not sure what I expect. It is difficult to judge after one rehearsal. I will say this, however. Everyone seems to be having a lot of fun and really enjoying the material. After all, it's 'Grease.' If you cannot have fun with Danny, Sandy, Greased Lightning, the T-Birds and Pink Ladies then you cannot have any fun at all.
Was 1959 really like this:
"Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee. Lousy with virginity. Won't go to bed til I'm legally wed. Oh look. It's Sandra Dee."