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Summer nights this winter
For Richard Chapman, it has been a serendipitous journey.
Last September, the 16-year-old Grade 11 student at Coquitlam’s Pinetree secondary won an ensemble role in the upcoming production of Grease!
Chapman was over the moon to be cast in the Treehouse Theatre presentation and told his mechanics teacher about Greased Lightnin’, one of the musicals most memorable scenes that centres around a wreck turned into a roadster.
“I wanted that scene to be great,” he said.
With the help of other senior students, Chapman stripped down a scrap vehicle, rebuilt the front end and painted it black with orange flames.
Two months later, Musical Theatre 11/12 drama specialist Natalee Fera tapped Chapman to play the character of Kenickie, Danny Zuko’s best friend, Rizzo’s main squeeze and — most importantly — the owner of the Greased Lightnin’ car. “It was just magic,” Chapman recalled. “I was thrilled. It was like it was always meant to be.”
Grease! will be special, too for other Rydell High cast members like Avidor Manor and Robyn Crawford, who will play Danny and Rizzo in their Grade 12 year.
Manor, 17, has been performing on stage since he was in Grade 8 at Maple Creek middle school. Then, he was in Anne of Green Gables. At Pinetree, he portrayed Mr. Sowerberry in Oliver! and last year was in 13 The Musical. Manor has been taking singing lessons privately for the past two months to tone up his vocal techniques for Grease!
“It’s very nerve-wracking being on stage and having all those eyes look at you because you’re in the front with Sandy,” Manor said, adding, “The main thing is I make sure I know my lines.”
Crawford, 17, is a little more confident about her appearance as she has an extensive background in the performing arts. At Pinetree, she played the Artful Dodger in Oliver! and Lucy in 13 The Musical; with CAPA, a Coquitlam dance school, Crawford was in Seussical and All Shook Up. She also teaches dance for the city of Coquitlam and has taken singing lessons for two years.
Treehouse Theatre’s Grease! is a toned-down version of the 1978 film that offers more PG content for a younger crowd, she said. As well, “it’s more of an ensemble show, not just all Sandy and Danny,” Crawford said. “There’s more between Rizzo and Kenickie. You see more with all of the couples than in the movie.”
As for Cidney Wallesch, the opportunity to portray Sandy Dumbrowski is a dream come true. “When I got picked to play Sandy, I was like ‘Oh. My. God. I have to smarten up,’” the Grade 11 student said.
The 16-year-old also has a varied resume, having acted with Theatrix and taking vocal classes for the past two years. In Grade 9, she was a stagehand in Oliver! at Pinetree and last year was part of the ensemble in 13 The Musical.
Now, she’s eager to showcase her talent in the leading female role. “I’m excited to show everybody what I’m made of,” she said. “I love being on stage, not behind it.”
• Grease! runs at Pinetree secondary school (3000 Pinewood Ave., Coquitlam) Feb. 7 to 9 and Feb. 14 to 16 at 7:30 p.m. Advance tickets at $10/$7 are available at the school office.