Grease: A Principal’s Review

Over 100 students took part in this year’s school production of Grease in March, with over 900 audience members coming to watch across the three nights. One of those was our Principal, Mr Prinsep. Hear what he has to say:

“Grease was the third academy musical we have been able to put on since Covid times and my third as the Principal of Abbey Grange.  And it didn’t disappoint.  Following on from the success of Annie and the Prohibition musicals last year, the Music and Drama department followed the same Abbey Grange priority of ensuring as many students as possible could take part.  Over 160 students sung, acted and danced their socks off  – as well as all the students performing in the band, operating the sound and the lighting and supporting with props, sets and backstage.  The students have been desperate to do Grease The Musical for quite some time but it was important to us that our musical also represented our Christian Ethos and Moral Values as well as being age appropriate and suitable for a 21st Century audience.  As well as not backing down from showing life and American youth culture from the 1950s Rock and Roll – and using it as a teaching opportunity around issues of consent, gender stereotypes, inclusion, body image…but also still delivering a well loved musical with some great songs and some great dance routines.

Performing a version of Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey’s Grease, and skillfully adapted by Mrs Rudge for Abbey Grange, the musical was a fantastic range of performances and songs from students from Y7 up to Y13 either individually, paired or in ensembles.  Too many standout performances to mention everyone but the story centres around the romantic pairings of gender flipped Danni (beautifully played by Eliza Y13) and Sandy (great comic timing from Henry Y12), Rizzo (belting out some great songs from Daisy Y13) and Kenickie (Henry Y13 following on from his role as Clyde last year) and other members of the T-birds and Pink Ladies.  Interspersed with these stories were other stand out performances from Nell Y11 as Miss Lynch and ensemble groups of Genie’s Crew, the Spotlight Performers, the Burger Palace Crew, Angels, Cheerleaders, Greasers (complete with light-up hub caps and a car made by Mr Dickinson!) and Sophomores.  There are so many more I could mention as every single cast member and crew worked seamlessly together to create a fast paced, intense musical with so many great tunes and so many great dance numbers.  It’s important to note too that many of our performers have been rehearsing for the play alongside revising for GCSE and A Level exams demonstrating a great hard work ethic but also how important all those enrichment activities are for our students’ characters and CVs – it’s not just about exam results.  Several of our students spent the week taking part in sports tournaments during the day and then rushing back to prepare to perform in the show – and all students were spending their days in lessons too and cracking on with the day.  A real hard work ethic and none of it showed on the night.

Some recognition to Grace (Marty), Gemma (Lori), Zach (Roger), Jess (Cha-Cha), Phoebe (band member and Shelby) and Naomi (Casey) – as well as Brad on the keyboards – who are all Y13s who leave us this year but have made a significant contribution to the music and drama department over their 7 years at Abbey performing in countless shows and music performances.  A great send off for them.

On top of this, the show was carried by our fantastic band – a mixture of students from lower school and sixth form, interspersed with teachers and staff from across the school (including one of our student teachers!) and supported by a crew of students behind the scenes.  It’s been noticeable that the academy’s resources and equipment to be able to deliver quality sound over the past few years has needed work.  We are only a school not a professional theatre so it’s not always been easy to get the expertise and equipment together to put on the quality of sound we, and our audience would like.  This year we put some money into a new sound desk and two parents Gavin McGrath and Mark Harlow supported us with equipment and expertise to finally get the professional edge we wanted.  A huge thank you to both of these volunteers who gave up so much of their time to support.  Shout outs to the PTA and all the staff, parents, volunteers and students who helped with tickets, refreshments, watching over students backstage, parking, etc.,  A real team effort.

For me, the final two songs were simply sensational and summed up the entire performance.  To see all of those students dancing in unison and singing so joyfully and with such positivity and passion is what Abbey Grange is about.  I don’t think you’d see this at any other school.  The audience on the final night especially with a standing ovation and joining in the songs was so moving to see and really exemplifies our Christian value of Koinonia – a communion of fellowship where everyone comes together for shared passion or belief.

So, a fantastic review from me (I am a little biased) and we look forward to what the performing arts department and the talented students of Abbey Grange do next!”