News from the Tennessee Valley Diversions

Gordon-Bibb students
groove in '50s musical

By Patrice Stewart
DAILY Staff Writer 340-2446

Have you seen some 10- and 11-year-olds running around in black leather jackets with "T-Birds" on the back?

Greaser Danny Zuko (Hastings Knox) puts some smooth moves on good girl Sandy Dumbrowski (Sara Bedsole) in Gordon-Bibb Elementary School's production of 'Grease.' The school version has been adapted to exclude smoking, drinking and 'being bad' found in both the motion picture and stage versions.
DAILY Photos by John Godbey
Greaser Danny Zuko (Hastings Knox) puts some smooth moves on good girl Sandy Dumbrowski (Sara Bedsole) in Gordon-Bibb Elementary School's production of "Grease."The school version has been adapted to exclude smoking, drinking and "being bad" found in both the motion picture and stage versions.
Don't worry. It's not a new gang in town — it's part of the cast of Gordon-Bibb Elementary School's production of "Grease."

This musical reminiscent of the 1950s — complete with poodle skirts, bobby socks, saddle oxfords and drive-ins — will be performed Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts.

They're using the school version of this musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, "so this 1-hour production is appropriate for all ages," said director Deanna Knox, a drama teacher who has managed to incorporate 150 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders.

Her magnet school students, however, have been watching the video of the movie "Grease" at home to prepare, and they know what's been cut for this school version. "There's no smoking, no drinking and no being bad," said Laura Ann Prickett, who plays Rizzo, leader of the Pink Ladies social group. "I like different parts, and for Rizzo I have to be mean, rude and sarcastic."

Her favorite part is telling the leading lady, "Look, Sandy, if you think you're going to be hanging with the Pink Ladies, get with it; otherwise, get back to your Girl Scout cookies."

Sara Bedsole, as Sandy, is prim and proper in her pink sweater, gray skirt featuring a poodle and "saddle oxfords" that she created herself with a black marker on white Keds.

"It's fun to sing, dance, perform and wear these costumes — and I have a black leather outfit, too."

Her favorite line to Danny, played by Hastings Knox, the T-Bird leader she falls for, is "Tell me about it, big boy." Hastings, who likes the choreography best, sings "Stranded at the Drive-in."

You'll recognize some familiar music, from "Summer Nights" to "All Choked Up." Other hits include "Greased Lightnin' " and Sandy's "Sandra Dee Reprise."

Groups of students sing and dance as the Greased Lightnin' Guys, Beauty School Drop-outs, Cheerleaders, Greasers and girls, and Alma Mater Reunion Classmates. Audience, watch your feet, because almost all 150 cast members will be doing the "Hand Jive" in the aisles during the prom scene.

Those dancing numbers with boys are a bit awkward at their age, said Mary Frances Graves, who plays Frenchy, the beautician wannabe who offers to pierce Sandy's ears. Mary Beth Snow as Jan and Jasminn Johnson as Marty round out the girlfriends at a pajama party, where Marty sings "Freddy My Love" as the girls gossip about boyfriends and prospects.

Guys will be guys, so it's no surprise that the Gordon-Bibb boys playing the T-Birds like cars and fancy hubcaps. "I'm trying to make my car as cool as it can be," said A.J. D'Antonio, as Kenicke. Larry Goode as Doody plays the guitar and jokes around. Braxton Pitts, as Roger, said "I'll do anything for a laugh," and he sings "Mooning."

Weston Parker as Sonny said that on stage, he's trying to find him a girl, "but fishing is my thing in real life."

In the role of Eugene "the nerd," Selby Duncan said laughter is the key. "I make people laugh a lot, so I'm good in this part."

Other characters include Kristin Olinger as Patty, Miriam Biffle as ChaCha, Mario Campbell as Johnny Casino, Mackenzie Keith as Miss Lynch and Tyler Shindlebower as Vince Fontaine.

The director said audiences should watch for a special entrance, "because you'll think the teen angel comes straight down from heaven."

Knox said this musical is "a community effort," with a lot of parent involvement for costumes, rehearsals and other needs, along with set assistance and role mentoring from Susan Thompson and her students at Austin High, who performed "Grease" last year. Brewer High's jazz band will play. Alabama State Council on the Arts helped with a $4,500 grant.

This musical is a look back in time for Knox and Pam Brannon, who handled the choreography. "She played Rizzo, I was Marty and my husband, Ronnie, played Roger in the Bank Street Players version of 'Grease' 20 years ago," said Knox.

How to go

What: The musical "Grease" by 150 Gordon-Bibb Elementary School students

When: Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., with 1950s music by local singers and band 30 minutes before each show.

Where: Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts

Admission: All tickets $5 at the door.

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