‘Grease’ comes to Revere stage


Mike Restivo sings during a rehearsal.

Maria Silvidi, Editor

As the music plays over the broken speaker, students practice their dance routines in Grease’s prom scene. The director takes notes on how to improve their moves so that the show can be at its best on opening night. As the students finish the song with their final pose, everyone is rushing to start the next scene. 

Grease tells the story of Sandy Dumbroski, who transfers to Rydell High for her senior year. She befriends the Pink Ladies and finds her summer love, Danny Zuko, on the first day of school. The greasers live out their senior year with the difficulties of being a teenager but find comfort with the bond they created with each other. 

Laurie Russell, the director for the musical, has been working for Players for over 20 years and decided to have Grease be her final show at Revere High School. 

Russell talked about her background with theater before directing at Revere. 

“I majored in speech and drama in college, and I also got my certificate in library science, so I was also the librarian,” Russell said. 

Russell talked about how she started working with Revere Players 23 years ago. 

“There was another director here and they needed a choreographer, so Mrs. Baker and I started then, but I became lead director when that person [left the program],” Russell said.

At one point, Russell was director for both the fall play and the spring musical at Revere.

“I did both plays for several years and that was a lot. But then Mrs. Baker decided that she wanted to help with the fall play,” Russell said. 

Russell has worked with other schools in the past and goes to shows in her free time. Russell explained how Revere Players is different from other high school theater programs. 

“It’s because of the dedication. I also think we have a strong presence in our school. All of the community comes to our productions, all of the students come to our productions, and I think that puts us a step ahead of everyone else,” Russell said.

Russell talked about why she chose Grease for this year’s musical. 

“I really believed that we needed to have a happy, fun loving show. After two years of Covid, [the students in Revere Players missed out] on our ability to do [Shrek the Musical]. The next year [we did] Oliver, which was fun but still a little somber. I really believe that our group needed something fun and uplifting, and I also feel that the audience needed that as well,” Russell said.

Russell explained her favorite part of being director for Revere Players. 

“My favorite part of directing is upon completion of the show; my favorite part is seeing all of [my students] so happy, and seeing all of you feel so good about what you’ve done and seeing the joy on all of your faces on putting on this great show,” Russell said. 

Russell talked about the lessons she has learned as director. One of the lessons Mrs.Russell learned is the love people show through their music. 

“The love of music is such a universal love that no matter who we perform for no matter what the show is, it is loved because of music. I always knew that but it was so reinforced when I started doing musicals,” Russell said. 

Russell has also learned more about the high school demographic when working with them for so many years. 

“I’ve really learned so much about teenagers. Even though I’ve been doing all of this for 23 years, every year I learn from [my students]. . . I learn about being patient; I learn about young love; I learn about how intelligent you all are, and I just so much appreciate sixteen through eighteen year olds now,” Russell said. 

Russell explained how being a part of Revere players can help a student transition easier into life after high school. 

“Revere Players puts you just a step ahead of [the] game because you have grown so much confidence and self-worth and you really feel like you have something to offer that I really think no matter what student joins, I really feel that Revere Players helps you get ready for the world,” Russell said. 

Russell talked about her experience working with Assistant Director and teacher Sarah Pine this year. 

“Working with Mrs. Pine was seamless. Of course Mrs. Baker and I are true friends and I adored working with her, but Mrs. Pine is so very experienced that makes it so much easier for me because she has so much experience in theater,” Russell said. 

Pine joined Revere Players this year, directing Radium Girls in the fall and Assistant director for Grease. Pine explained her background in theater. 

“I did it all through high school. I was involved in plays then I went to Kent State and got my undergraduate degree in theater. Then I went to Bowling Green State University and got my masters in theater. Then I worked in the theater for a little while and just discovered teaching was my passion. I got my teaching license and came back.  So I still work in the area with the Ohio Shakespeare company, but I still work professionally outside of school,” Pine said. 

Pine explained why she wanted to be assistant director for the musical this year. 

“I’m kind [of] in a position to be taking over for Players as Mrs. Russell leaves, so it seemed really important to work on the show together so I could see how she works with the kids, how she gets everything done for a massive musical,” Pine said. 

Pine talked about the responsibilities and tasks she completes as assistant director.

“It’s a lot of just being there for whatever [Mrs. Russell] needs, providing a second set of eyes. We divided up some of the dance numbers [choreo wise] to take some of that workload off of her as well. I also do some of the more stage manage-y type things during rehearsals like running the tracks, things like that,” Pine said.

One of the biggest things Pine has to adjust to when working with high schoolers is how students in Players see the club as more of a hobby rather than the full time commitment that people give in professional theater programs. 

“Theater is what they do even if they have a day job. They are there because [this] is what [actors] do in their lives. So many of the kids here are doing eight-thousand things, this is just a small part of their day,” Pine said. 

Pine talked about her experience working with Mrs. Russell this year. 

“We are very similar people. We have similar backgrounds, passions, interests. Obviously we are not the same age, we come from different generations, but I love working with Mrs. Russell,” Pine said. 

Pine explained why people should come and see Grease. 

“There are not that many shows that are just designed to be fun from start to finish, that don’t have some kind of meaning or major message that they are trying to feed you, and it is just designed to be joyful,” Pine said. 

Artistic Director Bob Pierson worked on Grease back when Revere first put on the production in the early 2000’s. He explained how he researched for the set design the first time Revere produced Grease. 

“The show has been done before. This is the second time [Revere] has done this, so I had an idea. Originally, the days before we could Google Search things, I went to the library and looked up 1950’s interiors, 1950’s restaurants, 1950’s cars,” Pierson said. 

This time, Pierson had the internet and his memory on his side to create backdrops including the one inside the high school. 

“The first thing I looked up was ‘burger palace’ and ‘grease.’ Usually you’ll see a lot of generic things and I don’t like it, so I’ll find my own drive-in car. This one I used my own reference to remember stuff, so the main school [backdrop,] no one’s ever done that scene. That is my vision of what Revere High school looked like,” Pierson said. 

The burger palace backdrop was based on a local drive-in called Jimbo’s.

“The burger palace, the type of drive-in it is, that’s out of my head I got that from Jimbo’s drive-in that was in this area and has been torn down but it had drive up speakers like Sonic,” Pierson said.

Marty’s bedroom was based on Pierson’s sister’s room in the 1950’s. 

“Like the 50’s bedroom, my sisters were little kids in the 50’s and some of the decorations were from my parent’s house,” Pierson said. 

One of the most iconic props used in the show is the car Greased Lighting. Pierson built the car himself, taking inspiration from a fast food restaurant. 

“It’s similar to the car we had made before, but I got the original idea from the kids meal boxes at Steak and Shake. When my kids ate there when they were little and got the kids meals, they had little boxes of Chevy’s, Ford’s and 1950’s cars, so it was very easy to transfer that idea under a plywood box,” Pierson said.

The exact transfer from box to life-sized was too large, so Pierson had to improvise. 

“I also looked up the demensions and the car is 16 feet long, so I couldn’t have a 16 foot long car, so I decided to chop it down from four doors to two doors and make convertibles out of them,” Pierson said. 

Pierson explained his history working with Mrs. Russell in Players. 

“We’ve been working together for 25 years. We both volunteered to help out with Wizard of Oz in 1998, and then we were asked to come on as paid positions the following year,” Pierson said. 

Pierson enjoyed working with her since her experience and vision made for an easier transition when working with an artistic director. 

“Mrs. Russell is an outstanding person to work with and knows her stuff. She knows the acting, the choreography, and she knows her music and she knows what she wants about scenery. She has always been very clear about what she wanted,” Pierson said. 

President of Revere Players Aaron Stalnaker plays many characters in this year’s musical including a member of the greasers and Vince Vontaine. His Revere Players journey started in 2019 as a freshman. Stalnaker talked about how he got interested in Players.

“I started as a crew member my freshman year with the fall play. I basically just read the script to make sure everyone backstage was keeping on time and to help move props around,” Stalnaker said.

The spring musical of Stalnaker’s freshman year is what got him interested in being a part of the cast.

“I got into [Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat,] which was my freshman year’s musical and I’ve just been auditioning and getting parts since then,” Stalnaker said.

As president, Stalnaker gained a stronger connection with Revere Player members and the concept of the president position. 

“I really enjoy meeting more people in Players then I probably would’ve if I stayed as a regular member. I’m glad that I have this opportunity to see how this kind of position works,” Stalnaker said. 

Stalnaker explained why people should consider joining players. 

“In Players, you are usually able to work out the schedule between sports and other clubs and activities. It’s a fun experience and helps you with public speaking and also just helps you learn how to act and even if you don’t get a role in the play. Working backstage not only helps you with volunteer hours, but helps you learn practical skills you can apply later on in life,” Stalnaker said. 

Leads Mike Restivo and Ellie Lewis have been members of players for many years. Both students started their freshman year; working their way towards bigger roles throughout different productions. Restivo explained why he auditioned for Danny.

“I’ve wanted to do Grease for quite some time now. I basically only ever heard summer nights, one of the classics, and I thought Danny was cool, so I auditioned for Danny,” Restivo said. 

Both actors agreed that the most challenging part of these roles is to fall in love with someone you treat as a friend off stage.

Lewis explained why they are happy they joined Players. 

“I feel like I’ve met my closest friends at Players,” Lewis said. 

Both actors are on the Revere Players board. Restivo talked about how is considering being president next year like his older brother Joe Restivo. 

“I would like to go for president. I’m Vice President now . . . . I like being on board because I feel like I have a say in stuff and how the club is run . . . . being president would be nice, but I don’t really know who is going for it or not,” Restivo said. 

Lewis found a positive of joining Players is being able to get out of your comfort zone. 

“You’ll get out of your comfort zone for sure because I’m not one to act like this at all on stage. I’m not a very bubbly person, so it has brought me out of my shell a little bit,” Lewis said. 

Both actors shared their favorite memory in Revere Players. Restivo’s favorite memory was “when we bought Mr. Carylon a slushie.”

Lewis’s favorite memory was meeting alumnus Spencer Jones.

“I found this balloon in chemistry for some reason, and I named it Bob. Then Spencer was hugging it and popped it, and then we both started crying,” Lewis said. 

Mrs. Russell had a final message for all the students she has worked with as director. 

“I would say thank you. I would say thank you to every single student I’ve worked with for all of their hard work and for bringing me such joy in this profession. It’s been a wonderful ride, and I love every single one of you,” Russell said. 

The “cool cat” energy that comes from Grease sticks with the kids at Revere Players. The memories Mrs. Russell made as director will stick with her for the rest of her life and will make an impact on the students she’s worked with. /