Every semester, the Montclair State University Players put on a varied slate of productions. This includes a musical the students perform near the end of spring. This semester, the Players are coming together to put on the classic musical, “Grease.”
Set in the late 1950s, the story takes place during the senior year of two high school gangs, the Burger Palace Boys and the Pink Ladies. It mainly centers around the challenges faced by the leader of the Burger Palace Boys, Danny Zuko, and potential new Pink Lady, sweet, new girl Sandy Dumbrowski, as their summer love comes to a head.
In the director’s chair is third-year political science major JC DeMaria with junior family science and human development major Angela Rose Massa serving as his assistant director. The two have worked together on previous productions, but this is Massa’s first time on the production team for a Players show.
“Getting to assistant direct for [DeMaria] and this production has been such a lovely experience,” Massa said. “I’m so delighted I get to share his last Players production before he graduates a year early.”
The show features a large cast of students across the various majors the university offers, all of whom are ecstatic to be a part of the show.
This is the first musical for sophomore theatre studies major Gabe Michelson, who plays Danny. He said learning to sing was an exciting challenge for him.
“This is my first ever musical, so even approaching the audition I was shaking thinking about it,” Michelson said. “But I knew if I practiced it I would be proud of myself that I tried. And now, I’m here. It’s insane.”
Michelson found the differences between Danny and himself aided in the rehearsal process.
“I love the chance that I get to become a different person entirely,” Michelson said. “I love how bold he is with the people around him; how he never is afraid and oozes confidence.”
Michelson’s co-star is senior family science and human development major Corinne Podolski, who plays Sandy.
Podolski has a connection to the musical and her part, having previously portrayed Sandy during her senior year of high school.
“I just love Sandy’s sweetness and how she turns in the end,” Podolski said. “I think it’s really cool for girls to see [her development].”
Plenty of cast members are excited to continue working in person after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic put such productions to a halt, such as Zoe LeRose, a junior theatre studies major who plays Patty Simcox.
She finds her character, a peppy cheerleader, a nice switch-up after playing Elizabeth Proctor in “The Crucible.”
“It’s kind of a mental break because it isn’t such a serious character,” LeRose said.
Many cast members find the appeal of “Grease“ comes from the nostalgia of the 1950s, the campiness of the script and the memorable tunes.
Ethan Russo, a junior filmmaking major who plays Sonny LaTierri, feels the show came at the right time having debuted in the 1970s.
“Not only did it come out when nostalgia for the 1950s was at its peak,” Russo said. “I think the entire soundtrack feels nostalgic, even to people who weren’t born in the ’50s.”
Summer Alfonso, a sophomore communication major who plays Marty Maraschino, shares this sentiment.
“[‘Grease’ is] one of those stories that resonate with people throughout generations,” Alfonso said.
Whitney Daniels, a freshman theatre studies major in the ensemble, thinks each new production of “Grease” puts a new spin on an old tale.
“I think the music and all of the actors involved make it so iconic every single time it is done,” Daniels said.
Natalya “Artemys” Kozlovski, a freshman animation major who plays Johnny Casino, admires the songs.
“They’re very catchy and easy to memorize,” Kozlovski said. “So, I feel like anybody can get into them, even if you don’t like musicals.”
Montclair State Players’ production of “Grease” hits the Red Hawk Nest on April 22 at 8 p.m., April 23 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and April 24 at 3 p.m. All four shows are currently sold out.