February 19, 2020
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Hermon students stage ‘Grease’

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Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN

HERMON — Crinolines are crinkling and poodle skirts swirling as 27 cast members sing and dance their way back to the days of ducktail haircuts and Brylcreem in Hermon High School’s musical production of “Grease.”
The show will open at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, with performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20-21, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22. Advance tickets are on sale at the high school office, at Danforth’s Down Home Supermarket in Hermon, and from cast members.

Set at fictional Rydell High School in 1959, “Grease” tells the story of Danny Zuko, leader of the T-Birds “greaser” gang, and good girl Sandy Dumbrowski, who part after a summer romance and meet again unexpectedly when Sandy transfers to the same school, leaving Danny torn between his cool reputation and his feelings for Sandy.

Infectious rock ’n’ roll-style musical numbers like “Hand Jive” and “Greased Lightning” punctuate scenes of drama and dancing, cliques and cut-ups as the senior class moves through its final year at Rydell High.

The impetus for the first musical in memory at Hermon High School came from the Hermon Arts Boosters, according to co-presidents Monique Hashey and Cheryl Olson Lorenz.

Five years ago, after a visit to Hermon from the Young Americans, a California-based performing arts company that conducts workshops for schoolchildren, four mothers whose children were interested in performing arts — Wendy Berglund, Shelley Snow, Hashey and Olson Lorenz — organized the Hermon Arts Boosters.

At one of their first meetings, they set a goal to fulfill music teacher John Kollman’s dream of starting a steel pan band in Hermon.

Hashey, a photographer with a marketing background; Olson Lorenz, a former journalist; and Kollman, who performs in the Blue Hill-based Flash in the Pans steel pan band, teamed up to write and produce a video that convinced Superintendent Patricia Duran to go to bat for the project and find funding.

With the new Hermon Pans band a reality and steel pan classes offered in both the schools and community, the Arts Boosters turned their attention to the goal of staging a musical.

“When we first started talking about it, we got some dubious responses,” Olson Lorenz said. “Hermon is a strong sports school, and some people were afraid no one would try out — but we believed that if we staged it, they would come.”

Last March, the group asked Joanne Durkovich, a Hermon resident and award-winning one-act play director for the high school, to direct a musical.
Durkovich, a former New York actress and nightclub singer who has worked on and off Broadway, presented the proposal to high school Principal Brian Walsh, who endorsed the project.

The Arts Boosters recruited Morita Tapley of Morita’s School of Dance in Hermon to volunteer her talents as a choreographer and dance instructor.
Music teacher Kollman signed on as musical director; community member Mark Barrows, former technical director for Penobscot Theatre Company, volunteered his expertise as technical director and master carpenter; and new high school faculty member Camden Carter, a musical theater graduate of New York University, offered to help direct.

Hashey and Olson Lorenz took on the remaining production tasks of searching for props and costumes, handling tickets and publicity. Hermon Arts Boosters provided seed money for the production.

When auditions were announced, so many students turned out that the resulting cast and company fills the stage in Hermon’s high school auditorium.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to understand what it is to be part of a musical,” Durkovich said. “It’s a chance for them to be part of the wonderful illusion of theater. If they have the right attitude, they can take a small part and use it to help build an illusion that is magical. Careers have been built on small parts.”

The cast includes Nicholas Tsoulas and Jennifer Phipps in the lead roles of Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski.

The Pink Ladies girl gang includes Catherine McElvain as hard-edged leader Rizzo, Chelsea Lear-Ward as beauty school dropout Frenchy, Abby Cummings as comical compulsive eater Jan, and Katherine Reynosa as beautiful and vain Marty Maraschino.

Danny’s T-Birds gang features Jordan Lorenz as Danny’s second-in-command and best friend, hard-talking Kenickie; Taylor Gervais as youngest gang member Doody, Ian Barrows as Sonny, a braggart who envisions himself a lady-killer, and Brad Chelberg as mischievous Roger.

Bryan Bouchard will play disc jockey Vince Fontaine, Kassie Foss will play Vi, a diner waitress with a heart of gold, Alexandra Lynds will play pesky head cheerleader Patti Simcox, and Ben Whitney will play football player Tom Chisum.

Nerdy valedictorian Eugene will be played by Steven Barker, and Alexa Hammond will play Rydell principal Miss Lynch. Destinee Knight will play Cha Cha DiGregorio, the best dancer at St. Bernadette’s, and Leo, a rival gang member, will be played by Brian Pelletier.

The teen angel role will be sung by guest artist Nestor Gonzalez of Orono, a former student of Carter’s who performed in her production of “Grease” in the Bronx, N.Y.

The company is rounded out by Michael Bogan, Jasmyn Downs, Destiny Doyle, Stacey Dunifer, Allison Elston, Nicolette Hashey, Natalie Johnson, Kaila Magliozzi and Meaghan Sinclair as Rydell students.

The Hermon Arts Boosters will sell concessions at intermission to raise money to support performing and visual arts in the three Hermon schools. Membership information also will be available.

“From choreography to cars to costumes, we have been able to count on the community to help our children out,” Hashey said.

“This is a story of how community resources can be used creatively to give students opportunities they would not have otherwise,” said Olson Lorenz. “We hope the communities of Hermon, Carmel and Levant will support the talented students we have in our midst.”