Houlton High School rocks out to ‘Grease’

14 years ago

By Joseph Cyr
Staff Writer
    HOULTON — The rocking good times of the 1950s came alive at Houlton High School Nov. 19-21 as the SAD 29 Music Department presented the musical “Grease.”
    Under the direction of vocal director Jason Anderson, with musical accompaniment led by Joe Fagnant, the stage of Houlton High School’s auditorium was transformed into Rydell High as the feel-good tunes from that era greeted audience members as they entered the auditorium.
    Roughly 1,800 viewed the performance over a sold-out three-show stand.
    “The audience attendance was the best we have ever seen,” said Fagnant. “Because of the popularity of the show and knowing you would get a good product from the music department, the show sold out each night.”
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BS-Grease-dc7-pt-47GO GREASE LIGHTNING — Singing the popular tune during the production of Grease are HHS students, from right, Zach Harvey,  Tyler Swimm and Zach Waite.

    By moving the pit orchestra to the upstairs balcony, additional seats were brought in for the shows.
    “We had officially 598 seats set up each night,” Fagnant said. “Each night we would create a waiting list for people needing tickets and were able to get people seated because we had some tickets turned back in, or some no shows. This is our second year doing reserved tickets for the musical and we are still tweaking our system. It is still amazing to think that close to 1,800 people saw the show. That is great support form this community.”
    “I was thrilled to have my students experience sold-out shows,” Anderson added. “I remember my experiences of performing to sold-out audiences. The performance always seems to be better on those nights (because of the energy) than others that are played to half-house audiences. This year’s attendance at shows is certainly a testament to the overwhelming community support for the arts in SAD 29.”
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BS-Grease-dc12-pt-47TEEN ANGEL — Wyatt Jenkins, left, sings to Hannah Chapla during the song “Teen Angel.”

    Having the orchestra in the balcony presented only few challenges for the stage troop.
    “Because the songs are rock tunes, there is a lot of playing straight ahead and the cast singing along, so there was less of a need for a conductor to be in front of the students,” Fagnant said. “It was a little tough getting used to sound wise because from the perspective of the orchestra, we were closed in a little corner, so it was a challenge to balance the sound.  It took some getting used to. It did allow us to have more seats for this show and also the orchestra had a great view down on the stage. It was also fun to see the audience reactions to each scene.”
    “I know that Joe and I were both excited about re-locating the pit to the balcony,” Anderson said. “Although it posed some minor challenges in terms of balancing the sound so everyone could hear, I feel the overall effect of having the pit hidden made the experience better for all audiences. It needs to be said that our pit orchestra played phenomenally. Having attended countless performances in my life, I know that audiences’ eyes can often be drawn to what action is taking place in the pit instead of what is happening on stage. By removing the pit from the front of the stage, the action of the students in the production was highlighted better.”
    Nearly 50 cast members participated in this year’s production.
     “I couldn’t have been happier with any aspect of this year’s performance,” Anderson said. “From the very start of the process, the kids gave 100 percent of whatever they had. I was constantly impressed with their abilities to balance the needs of the production with all of their schoolwork. For as much effort and energy they put forth to make this production a success, they had to give as much to their academics. I know I did it when I was their age, but I can’t imagine doing it now.”
    The cast included: Sandy Dumbrowski, Meghan Maker; Danny Zuko, Tyler Swimm; Betty Rizzo, Danika Fitzpatrick; Kinickie, Zacharia Harvey; Jan, Maryah Ranck; Roger, Tyler Delano; Marty, Ally Carmichael; Doody, Zach Waite; Frenchy, Hannah Chapla; Sonny, Nick Hannigan; Linda, Megan Gerath; Patty, Marcy Hernandez; Eugene, Ashton Carmichael; Johnny, Lucas Anderson; Vince, Brandon Clark; Ms. Lynch, Lizzy Garcia; Ms. Green, Michelle Green; and Teen Angel, Wyatt Jenkins.
    The Rydell High students included Nelson McGuffin, Brandon Murphy, Avery Kibler, Phoenix Crockett, Elyjah Crockett, Lucas Grant, Danielle Daigle, Katie Cone, Chelsi Murray, Taylor Lindsay, Dakota Jenkins, Morgan Kibler, Courtney Bragan, Echo Turner, Jaclyn Hodgkins, Emma Reed, Kierra Carmichael, Brittany Jewell, Mikaelah Tuttle, Jayde Tingley, Kristin Goodall, Maggie Russell, Crystal Nason, Sarah Bouchard and Mallory Clayton.
Houlton Pioneer Times Photo/Joseph Cyr
BS-Grease-dc10-pt-47GOT RHYTHM — Chelsi Murray,  right, and Phoenix Crockett, left, lead the dancing moves during the song “Born To Hand Jive.”

    The technical crew featured Isaac Brown, Robert Remington, Jacob McGuffin, Cody Gates, Axel Keber and Ryan Tribou.
    “Like every other production, it is very difficult to gauge what the final performance will be based on your auditions,” Anderson said. “Adding to that usual mystique was the fact that I am new to the district this year and had never seen the students perform before. Casting a show under those circumstances was tricky, but with the help of Joe Fagnant and Pam Chernesky (both of which knew the kids and their performances) I believe we cast our performers to showcase their individual talents. I wasn’t surprised by any one student’s performance; I was proud of the work they put into developing their characters and relationships.”
    During Sunday afternoon’s performance, the students were able to do a bit of ad-libbing and were surprised to see Anderson make a cameo appearance as well. Anderson donned a soda shop waiter’s costume during one scene as he popped up from behind a bar.
    “I really was impressed by the work of the students,” Fagnant said. “They were pushing themselves to get better and better the entire week leading up to opening night. They were really well prepared to work with the orchestra and put things together quickly.”
    Fagnant said proceeds from the show were used to cover the costs associated with this year’s play, as well as previous year’s productions and future shows.
    “Sometimes people do not realize that a show can cost $2,000-$3,500 just to rent the script and have the rights to do the show,” Fagnant said. “Add into that costumes, set pieces, props, rented items, musicians, specialty lighting or sound and other items we need to produce the show, it usually leaves us with about $2,000 to put towards the following years show. A few years ago, we produced ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and the total bills were $12,000 for the show. Ticket sales help with the cost of the show and we were happy to have sold out performances to aid in this production.”