The Chateauguay Valley Regional High School (CVR) performing arts department has been gearing up in preparation for its production of Grease which will hit the stage May 11-13 (with a preview for elementary schools on May 10). The cast and crew have been hard at work since September, preparing a new version of one of the first musicals the CVR performing arts department ever produced.
“We have done a string of Disney and animation-inspired shows, and it was time for a change,” explains Lynn Harper, one of three performing arts teachers at CVR. The timing felt right to move on to a slightly more mature show, especially with the passing of one of the movie’s original stars. “Ultimately, the passing of Olivia Newton-John during the summer of 2022 was the inspiration for this look back at a past show . Our production will be a tribute to a beloved performer,” she explains.
This show deals with some themes that are a bit more mature than what you may have seen in recent years at CVR. Harper explains that they have “created a show which sidesteps a few of the more mature themes while still maintaining the flavour of the original script. Our show is a tribute to the ‘50s and it is loaded with well-loved music that will have audiences tapping their toes and singing along!”
Real-life best friends Lyndsay MacKay, Hailey Cartier, and Michelle MacDonald will be playing onstage friends Sandy, Rizzo, and Frenchie (respectively). The three of them are Grove Hall alumni and you may have seen them in productions like Anne of Green Gables or Matilda. MacDonald says that this class is “definitely the class everyone looks forward to. And it definitely keeps you on your toes because there’s a lot of choreography.” MacKay echoes this sentiment and adds that “Everyone’s having fun, they all seem very energetic when we walk into the room. It’s been really cool.”
A welcome change this year is that it is much easier to rehearse the show without the added barrier of COVID restrictions. Harper describes it as “freeing” to be able to rehearse a show normally again. But other things have definitely changed since the pre-pandemic days. For starters, the show is happening in May instead of January; with this, the cast got to perform at a Winter Gala and give a sneak peek of the show to get the audience excited. “They performed short vignettes of script, song and dance from Mamma Mia, and a preview of Grease. They have also performed in three other events which gave them much-needed stage experience,” says Harper. They have also introduced understudies for some of the principal roles.
Harper highlights that this cast works extremely well together, and rehearsals have been going incredibly well. “The cast is motivated, and we are making great progress! Everything is blocked; songs and dances are almost done; costumes, props, and sets are underway, and scenes are coming together.” Not only that, but they have been coming into themselves as performers along the way. “They have grown as performers and as a family – it has been a pleasure working with them.”
The students are really looking forward to sharing their work with audiences. “All of our hard work and dedication has come to this. Especially for Greased Lightning with the car, and all the set changes… And everyone’s looking forward to all of the big things like Beauty School Dropout,” explains MacKay.
These students are also really looking forward to just getting back on stage again. Since Grove Hall closed, they haven’t had a chance to perform like they used to. “It’s exciting to finally be able to perform for everyone again; I really missed it. And I was so excited to finally be able to get that adrenaline rush before going on stage for the first show,” says Cartier. MacDonald adds that the sense of community is something they all really missed as well. “You become a family. I found with Anne of Green Gables we became a big family and now we have our production family and I love it.”
Access to the performing arts can be an important thing in high school. The classes offer a place where students can express themselves freely. “You’re kept to yourself in every other class, and it’s all serious. But then whenever you have performing arts, you’re able to just put yourself out there and not be scared of what other people might think,” says Cartier. All three agree that being a part of something like this has helped everyone gain more confidence.
Harper makes sure to give shout-outs to all the other people who are working hard to create this show: Kim Guérin, Erika Scott, Cindel Chartrand, Dawna Babin, and the entire tech crew. She adds, “It has been wonderful to welcome back performing arts alumni in leadership roles!”
You can catch the show at the CVR auditorium on May 11 (8 p.m.), May 12 (8 p.m.) and May 13 (2 p.m.).