Saturday, 22 October 2011

LIFE OVERSEAS : Grease weaves its magic

AUDREY CHEW ERNERN shares her experiences as both a cast and audience member of Grease
GOOSEBUMPS popped out like daisies while I sat in the sixth row from the stage at Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin, Ireland.

From the stalls to the upper circle, hundreds of people were filling up the venue to check out Grease, the highly acclaimed musical. As music played, the curtains began to rise. We clutched our popcorn and soda, and there stood the captivating cast.

The legendary musical of 1971 tells a tale of the unresolved summer love between bad boy Danny Zuko and the girl next door Sandy Dumbrowski. It even made its way to Hollywood and starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
As summer ends, neither Zuko nor Dumbrowski knows that fate brings them to the same school. This leads to teenage rebellion and an emotional roller-coaster ride.

As the drama is set in 1959 and Elvis Presley was the idol then, the guys appear with locks slicked back with gel, ever ready with a comb in their back pockets in case of a hair crisis.

Mary Jane heels are all the rage as the girls prance around in matching poodle skirts and cinch belts to accentuate their hourglass figure.

What made this musical even more exceptional was that Irish star Mary Byrnes, one of The X Factor 2010 finalists, played the role of Teen Angel.

The crowd went delirious as she appeared glowing in a white suit with a silver sequinned collar and a matching fluffy white wig.

As the cast danced and sang their hearts out, the audience were engrossed and you could even hear them singing along and grooving in their seats.

I was guilty of both as I know all the lyrics by heart because my school, St. Anne’s Community College, Killaloe staged Grease last Christmas and I was a part of the cast.

A smile began to appear on my face as I reminisced the months spent on rehearsals every day after school.

There were many firsts for me.

It was the first time that sheets of lyrics had to be memorised. The need to make sure my voice carried meant that sore throats became a norm.

It was also a time for making friends with people of all other ages and who I rarely meet in school.

Next, bringing an extra pair of sport shoes to school was mandatory as the cast prepared to be grilled by the dance instructor.

Then, we had to learn more than 10 dances for the songs. These dances had to be synchronised as a troupe but what made it all the more challenging was that we had to sing the nonsensical “rama-lama-lama-ka-ding-a-da-ding-de-dong” from the song We Go Together. We were practically out of breath due to the dance moves as it were.

But all the worries and fatigue vanished when we had to stage four shows in the school hall with hundreds of eyes on us.

The feeling was just magical and unexplainable.

The act of getting out of one outfit into another and scrambling onto the stage in time brought about an adrenaline rush.

When the standing ovations never seemed to come to an end, we knew that our hard work had paid off and the performance was going to be a lasting memory.

The knowledge that we would go back to our daily routine after our final bow was heartbreaking.

But this time round, I was in the audience and I was able to relive the memorable experience and I envied the cast.

The members are going to do this again today, tomorrow and many more days to come.

The performing arts is a tough option to venture into and I can only imagine the joy and satisfaction after every performance.

But there is one thing I can absolutely relate to.

Grease is, without a doubt, the word.

The writer is studying at a high school in Ireland. She loves to try all things but is a Malaysian at heart. Email her at

Read more: LIFE OVERSEAS: Grease weaves its magic

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