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Olympian High School students tackle performance of 'Grease' Bill Swank | Fri, Mar 29 2013 01:35 PM

Last week, Olympian High School transformed into 1959 Rydell High as the school’s entire visual and performing arts department staged an ambitious rock ’n’ roll rendition of the popular 1972 musical “Grease.”

Senior Omar Ruiz-Medellin, who played outside linebacker on Olympian’s CIF runner-up football team, on a whim and without any previous acting, singing or dancing experience, auditioned for the lead role of Danny Zuko … and a star was born.

 Mobbed after the final production, he reflected on the experience.

“If I’d known there were so many good-looking girls in drama, I would have started as a freshman,” he quipped.

Based on the experience, he plans to pursue the theater after graduation. “I have found my place,” Ruiz-Medellin said.

Director Jennifer Schaeffer had high praise for the choir, band and dance members who joined her drama students.

“The kids put so much effort into learning their roles — well over half of them had never been in a play before and only two had ever been in a musical,” she said. “They had fun and loved performing before such large and responsive audiences.”

Ginny Mabrey, daughter of music director Eric Mabrey, nailed Frenchy, the beauty school dropout with pink cat eye glasses.

“I felt like I was in the 1950s,” the younger Mabrey said. “We really were the Pink Ladies.”

The school’s visual and performing arts department felt like it was the 1950s, too. In an era of dwindling budgets, the band and drama club pooled their resources to finance the play. Olympian staff included drama teacher Schaeffer, band teacher Mabrey, choir teacher Jennifer Opdahl and dance teacher Melody Morris, who volunteered many hours after school to ensure success.

 Veteran Olivia Torres tackled the challenging role of Rizzo, the fast-talking, vinegar breath leader of the Pink Ladies. She compared Rizzo to the strong-willed Kate in Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew.”

“I like playing characters with spunk,” Torres said. “Rizzo’s character is complex and conflicted. She brought out the New Yorker in me.”

Another newcomer was band member Marissa Myers, who played Marty. She thought she had no chance at tryouts and now has the confidence to try anything. Marissa aspires to be a rockabilly queen.

 “To see how important this experience is to the kids and their families makes us understand why we teach,” Schaeffer said. “We never tire from watching kids learn from life experiences and build confidence.” 

Grease is the time, is the place, is the motion ... Grease is the word.

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