Yesterday, I was lucky enough to do an interview with Loughborough University’s very own Stage Society to find out everything there is to know about this week’s production of Grease. Walking in, everything was loud yet inviting as everyone seemed to be having a great deal of fun rehearsing different songs and dance numbers for the upcoming show. Energy was high, despite the cast and crew being there for 6 hours straight already, but just getting a glimpse of what was to come on the 3rd, 4th and 5th December was making me eagerly anticipate the show. I sat down with cast members Jess, Abbey, Hannah, Bradley, Josh and Jack to see how the production was coming along…
Hey guys! Thanks for doing an interview with us, let’s get stuck right in shall we? Can you give a quick overview of what Grease is all about?
Set in a 1950s high school, Grease follows the unlikely love story between Sandy and Danny, who met and fell in love one summer only to find they are classmates that belong to completely opposite cliques. As one of the most well known musicals of all time, people can sing (and maybe even dance) along with the cast as we perform this theatrical masterpiece!
What made you decide to join stage?
It’s one of the biggest societies around, and looked like something that would be a lot of fun outside studying. It’s also a great way of building skills and gaining experience if acting and performance is something you want to seriously pursue. Everyone in the society has their own interest in performing, so there’s already things you have in common with one another. There’s also a choice to be a part of the backstage team which is really cool, so you get to see how a production is made from all angles and not just the one part you play. It’s also interesting because everyone comes from different backgrounds academically – the stigma that everyone who acts does drama just isn’t true at all!
What inspired the Stage Society to put this production on?
As such an upbeat musical that’s popular and fun, it was a complete no-brainer to be honest. It gives us a lot to work with in terms of the dancing and singing aspect, we can take things to a more advanced level than some of the have productions before which is really exciting. We also wanted to put on something that would attract as much interest as possible in terms of auditions, and we were very lucky to have around 60 people competing for roles this year, which was crazy because we had to narrow it down to just 25! As it’s a musical that people already know, we found it was a lot more accessible to freshers as well, which has been really uplifting and interesting. There are a lot of big song and dance numbers this time, and we think that it’s a feel-good way to go out with a bang before Christmas!
How does Grease compare to shows Stage has done before?
Boys: There’s a lot more energy around for this musical, everyone’s so present in their roles and keen to try their best despite it being a really intense 7 week rehearsal period, which takes its toll on everyone at times. It’s also a lot of fun, which makes it really enjoyable to do and something you look forward to working on. It mixes things up in terms of what we’ve done before because everything’s been a bit more serious in the past, so with Grease being a really light-hearted thing it’s like a breath of fresh air for us.
Girls: For this one there are so many new people involved, which is really nice because you get to meet people from all over the university. Stage has student from obvious disciplines like Drama, but surprisingly a lot of engineering, design and humanities students too which is an interesting personality mix. No matter what show we put on, it always feels like a nice big family because we spend so much time together. I think if we had to compare it to shows we’ve done before like Footloose and Guys and Dolls, I’d say that you can draw some parallels between the dancing in Footloose, but this is by far to most challenging dancing and singing we’ve ever done. There are a lot of flips and people being thrown around – the four choreographers we have are absolutely fantastic! Everyone is so dedicated to get it right and as the weeks go on you can see everyone becoming more and more confident in themselves. We can’t wait to show it to everyone else.
What was the audition process like?
The auditions were really relaxed. With stage, unless you have a preferred role, you just audition with any piece and the directors cast you into the role they think best suits you. There are some call backs and everything, but there was an encouraging atmosphere throughout the whole process. The competition was fierce this year though, so those who were picked have set the bar pretty high.
How have you been getting on with your roles?
It’s all gone by really quickly, it’s only a 7 week rehearsal so it is a bit intense in terms of learning lines. However, most of us were aware of or knew the song lyrics for Grease before which was a real bonus, especially for the people who hadn’t done stage before, because it led to an easier, more natural performance early on. Everyone’s really comfortable in their roles now, so we’re just polishing everything off before curtain this weekend.
What’s been the most exciting part so far?
Girls: It was surprising how high the standard is for Stage, it really challenges you because, without sounding too cringe, you look around and see all of these incredibly talented people and that makes you want to be the best you can be. That kind of atmosphere is the best part, because it pushes you without being pushy if that makes sense, and definitely makes us want to keep doing shows with Stage in the future. It’s also really exciting to bond with the cast – we host many-a-social and spend so many hours rehearsing together that its difficult not to know everyone, and that puts you at ease when you’re acting as well.
Boys: For us, the first rehearsal with the full band, costume, props and everything was amazing. It made everything feel like it was all coming together, so you don’t worry about what the show’s actually going to be like on the night anymore. It’s also really great working with the directors who are so enthusiastic and fun, especially Andy – the musical director – who is exceptional! Thinking about it, we’re really lucky to be able to learn from such great dancers as well – the boys seem to struggle a bit more with dancing you see – but the choreography is accessible to everyone no matter what level of experience you may or may not have.
What’s been the most difficult part so far?
Keeping energy high with long rehearsal days like this can be hard. Needing to be enthusiastic about the show and fitting in all our coursework is sometimes a stretch, especially when it comes to deadline week. We also don’t rehearse chronologically so it can be a little difficult to see which scenes will have the most impact, but overall none of the stress comes from the show itself, you just have to learn to organise your time right and adapt to the process. It’s a relief sometimes to just be able to leave the coursework at home and do something creative and fun.
Why do you think Grease a good show for people to see?
Boys: Everybody loves Grease. It’s one of the most famous stories, is good fun and enjoyable to watch. We really hope people will like it just as much as we have loved being a part of making it and we really do think it will be one of the best ones Stage has done yet. Yes, it is a cheap production, but there’s no question as to if it’s a professional show. Everyone has different strengths in acting, singing or dancing so the cast balance each other out, and this year the chorus is definitely second to none. The quality of Grease will surprise people, and that’s all down to the hard work we’ve all put in. We hope you think we do it justice!
Girls: We honestly can’t encourage people enough to come along and see the show. From the people I’ve asked to come and see it, their faces always light up when I say it’s a production of Grease. It has so many iconic songs and by being set in the 50s, it’s a great time to revisit and have fun with. We have the most talented chorus and the directors have put in so much time and effort to make it the best it can possibly be. We’ve all really loved doing this show and there will no doubt be tears all around when it comes to an end.
How do people buy tickets?
All you have to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure yourself some tickets for either Thursday 3rd, Friday 4th or Saturday 5th December. Tickets are only £5 NUS and £8 Non-NUS!
Also, be sure to join the Facebook group for any updates or take a look at the LSU Stage Society page for more information about the society itself (and any other productions its planning on putting on this year!).