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'Grease: The School Version' and 'Rigoletto' hit high school stages in Hernando

One is a fun-loving musical about high school, fast cars and teen love in the 1950s. The other is a fantasy drama filled with prejudice, violence and a reminder not to judge a book by its cover.

Theater-goers can catch both shows this weekend — Central High School's presentation of the musical Grease: The School Version, featuring the fun-loving Burger Palace Boys and the gum-smacking Pink Ladies, and Hernando High School's presentation of Rigoletto, about the arrival of a mysterious stranger in town, the grotesquely disfigured Ribaldi.

'Grease: The School Version'

The musical kicked off Thursday and continues today and Saturday at Central High. It is a lighthearted, family-friendly rendition of the story about the gang from Rydell High, with familiar songs such as Greased Lightnin', It's Raining on Prom Night, Alone at the Drive-In Movie and Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee.

Featuring a cast of about 25, the show stars Central seniors Cody Buckland and Sloan Griffin as greaser Danny Zuko and good girl Sandy Dumbrowski, high school students trying to rekindle their summer romance while struggling with the social pressures at their school.

Although Buckland, 18, has performed in a number of shows, his role as Danny is his first lead, and is, by far, his favorite.

"I'm the opposite of Danny. He's the lady killer, and I'm not really that guy," Buckland admits.

Band and chorus teacher Karen Romine, who co-directs the show, agrees.

"He did get flustered and blushed a bit while rehearsing with (the character) Cha Cha," she said.

In her role as Sandy, Griffin admits she portrays someone much different than herself.

"(Sandy) is reserved and shy," said Griffin, 18. "I'm definitely the opposite."

And while It's Raining on Prom Night is her favorite song, the pajama party at Marty's is Griffin's favorite scene.

"Fighting with Rizzo was a lot of fun," she said.

Aside from the lead roles, Romine admits there was quite a bit of typecasting, such as Nick Cucciniello's role as Roger (Rump).

"Roger's loud like me," said Cucciniello, 17, who also admits that when Roger "hung one out on old lady Lynch," mooning is something that's not new to him. In fact, Cucciniello is a bit torn between which is his favorite part of the show.

"It was either the mooning part or when I got pantsed," he said.

On a more serious note, Cucciniello said the scene when he sings his solo, Mooning, is his favorite, particularly the bonding in the park.

"It's just like real friends," he said.

The show is directed Romine and drama teacher Derrick Tucker. Both joined the staff at Central midyear and had just eight weeks from auditions to the end of rehearsals.

"The show is coming together rather nicely," Romine said. "The kids are doing a phenomenal job. They are talented actors. The community will really appreciate and enjoy the program."

'Rigoletto'

Hernando High drama teacher Susana Rosario was happy when she learned many of her students were eager to put together Rigoletto. The show is based on the 1993 movie, not the opera, and is more of a dramatic presentation than a musical.

"Many people don't know Rigoletto," Rosario said. "It's a good story about prejudice and how people make assumptions."

Rosario said the story is somewhat of a cross between Beauty and the Beast and The Phantom of the Opera.

The story centers around Ribaldi, a new and mysterious man who arrives in town. When he buys the mortgage on Margie Nelson's home, her daughter Bonnie agrees to work for him in exchange for allowing her family to keep their home.

Because of Ribaldi's disfigured appearance and cold and harsh personality, Bonnie at first believes he is a monster. However, she soon realizes he is kind and misunderstood, as well as a gifted musician, and convinces him to give her singing lessons.

In town, many of the people are being evicted and suspect the culprit is Ribaldi.

"Most believe him to be a monster," Rosario said. "Not only because they think he's taking their property, but also because of his looks and that he's a newcomer. . . . Your heart breaks for him."

Before this show, Hernando High senior Edward Williams, who plays Ribaldi, said he had been more of a singer than an actor. And while he does sing, and particularly likes his solo, The Curse, Williams enjoys the scenes when his character is horrible and mean.

"Ribaldi is very unique," said Williams, 18. "He has a lot of emotion and also has a sensitive side to him. . . . Everyone sees him as rotten, but he really is crushed. . . . Hands down, he's my most favorite character I've played."

Williams said his favorite scene is when he gets killed.

"Everyone sees me as a bad person, a villian," he said. "They kill me, invade my house and my privacy, then find out I've been helping them all this time."

In her role as Bonnie, Brigitte Weigl, 17, finds herself in her first singing role. Her first song, Let Me In, is her favorite.

Weigl describes Bonnie as nice, "but a bit naive and very curious." She particulary enjoys the relationship Ribaldi and Bonnie form.

"Bonnie doesn't have a dad, and I really like how he becomes like a father figure to her," Weigl said.

Rosario is proud of her lead actors. While she has worked with Weigl, a junior, since her freshman year, the role of Bonnie is a new challenge.

"Brigitte has performed more on the comic side," Rosario said. "This is a little bit of a stretch for her, more serious."

As for Williams, "He is a natural," Rosario said.

The cast of about 30 students also includes three students from Chocachatti Elementary School and two from Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics.

"They have been an absolute delight," Rosario said.

Rosario said the songs in the show are powerful, but the play is more of a drama that focuses on relationships and characters.

"These kids have done a real good job," she said. "How some of these students can grasp these characters, it is very surprising and exciting as well."

>>if you go

Grease: The School Version

When: 7 p.m. today and 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Central High School auditorium, 14075 Ken Austin Parkway, west of Brooksville.

Cost: Tickets are $5, with 50 percent of the proceeds to be donated to Relay for Life.

Information and tickets: Call (352) 797-7020, ext. 295 or 296.

Rigoletto

When: 7 p.m. today and Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday.

Where: Hernando High School Performing Arts Center, 700 Bell Ave., Brooksville

Cost: General admission is $5. Tonight's show is free for Hernando schools employees (with badge). The Saturday matinee is free for Hernando County students who wear their school shirts.

Information and tickets: (352) 797-7015, ext. 333.

'Grease: The School Version' and 'Rigoletto' hit high school stages in Hernando 05/17/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 17, 2012 4:29pm]

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