CSS College students Carried out Grease the Musical in Hong Kong!

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After five long months of rehearsals, Creative Secondary School (CSS) presented the much-loved musical Grease to appreciative audiences in February, marking a vibrant return for the school’s arts community. We caught up with four CSS students who played pivotal roles in the production including taking on the dance choreography for this iconic school musical in Hong Kong.

Performers: Isabella De’Eb and AJ Barriga

CSS Students

Tell us about your roles in the production.

Isabella: I played Sandy, who is a sweet, caring, innocent character, yet still someone who is strong and stands up for herself. I loved showing the journey, transformation and growth of her character. She’s very special – there’s not really anyone like her.

AJ: I played Danny, good friends with the T-Birds – Sonny, Roger, Doody and Kenickie. I really enjoyed the role. Danny’s personality is incredibly different from mine, which at first I found difficult; but, over time, through the help of Mr Kevin Toong (Head of Arts Faulty and Head of Drama) and Ms Tiffany Lo (Deputy Head of Junior School and Teacher of Drama), I learnt techniques to make the character stand out, either in the way I moved, talked or even stood idly when I had no lines.

Favourite moment on stage in the show?

Isabella: “Hopelessly Devoted To You” – 100 percent! It’s such an iconic part of Grease and the song holds such a special place in my heart; it’s the reason I joined the musical in the first place!

AJ: “Greased Lightnin’”! It was a pleasure working on it with the choreographers and T-Birds. I must express my utmost gratitude to Mr Barnes for crafting a remarkable small wooden replica of a car for our production. His contribution was truly invaluable!

Tell us a bit about the rest of the CSS student cast.

Isabella: This project has bonded the group in a special way, and I have so many great memories with this cast. I think our show was a success because the friendships were already there and we didn’t have to act; all the laughs and smiles on stage were genuine and made all the difference.

AJ: It was incredibly fun working with them – everyone got along very well, and we would mess around at times but also work efficiently together. A lot of us brainstormed ideas that were then used in the show.

What other productions have you enjoyed being a part of?

Isabella: I did eight years with Island Glee Club and we would do annual shows with dance and singing performances – without those, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’d be much less comfortable and confident, and I wouldn’t know how much I love performing.

AJ: One I will never forget is 4AM, a play we did before the summer of 2023. It was incredibly fun as there was such a variety of unique characters even if the cast was small.

In the future, do you see yourself performing more on stage or in another musical in Hong Kong ?

Isabella: Performing will forever be a part of my life. When I’m on stage I think I’m the most at peace than anywhere else. I’m able to share what I love doing and others actually enjoy watching me. Everyone sings in the shower or dances in their room; I get the privilege to be able to actually perform in front of others.

AJ: Yes, definitely – expressing myself on stage has been a big passion of mine.

Do you have another dream role you’d like to take on

Isabella: Veronica Sawyer in Heathers.

AJ: Aaron Burr in Hamilton the Musical.

Dance choreography: Jasmine Nizal and Sophia Woodbury

Dance choreography

What work is involved in choreographing a school musical in Hong Kong of this kind?

Jasmine: Sophia and I started by researching Grease – the movie and other versions, analysing the songs, and studying the characters. The actual choreographing was tough in the beginning – we were overwhelmed by the number of dances and the short amount of time to create them.

To ease the workload, we split each song into two and choreographed one part each; this system helped tremendously thanks to our great chemistry. I wouldn’t want to do this project with anyone else!

Sophia: The wonderful directors Mr Toong and Ms Lo would meet with us to discuss our vision and offer guidance and assistance. Then Jazzie and I would figure out the dances. Sometimes, we choreographed in advance; other times, we worked it out at rehearsals. It took a while to find a balance with the IB, other extracurriculars and leadership roles – I’m so grateful to have had Jazzie’s support the entire way.

What was your favourite piece of dance choreography from the show?

Jasmine: Aside from “Beauty School Dropout”, I have to say “Greased Lightnin’” took my breath away. The leather jackets and the car Mr Barnes built really elevated the whole number.

Sophia: Each piece brought something unique to the table, but “Greased Lightnin’”, “Beauty School Dropout” and “Born to Hand Jive” stood out for me. They were high energy, and the cast’s chemistry brought the songs to life.

How did the show go? Were you involved onstage at all?

Jasmine: All four shows were extremely successful – they wowed me every time. Mr Toong invited Sophia and me to be a part of “Beauty School Dropout”, and being in the actual production made the entire experience more memorable.

Sophia: The show was amazing! Watching everyone on stage brought tears to my eyes. Aside from being a Teen Angel in “Beauty School Dropout”, I did a small lyrical dance behind Isabella – the amazing Sandy – in “Hopelessly Devoted To You”.

What’s your own dance background?

Jasmine: Dance has always been a passion but I didn’t take it seriously until a year ago. Currently, I am a hip-hop dancer at Academy of Dance – we’ve competed in professional competitions in Hong Kong and Thailand. I also danced for the Youth Arts Foundation in the annual Arts In the Park show.

Sophia: I started weekly contemporary dance classes at age 10, which really unlocked my love for dance. I began competing with my studio a few years ago in Jazz and Lyrical, and I performed in the HK Players’ 2019 and 2021 Pantos, and played Killer Queen in the school production in 2022. I also co-directed a small play last year, which taught me a lot about theatre as a whole.

What would be your ideal show to create dance choreography for?

Jasmine: High School Musical and Mean Girls – I love the 90s and noughties eras, and I think it would be a fun challenge tackling these iconic shows.

Sophia: Mamma Mia – I love all the songs and how involved the chorus is – and the style is right up my alley!

A word from Stephen Hindes, CSS School Principal

How many CSS students and staff are involved in getting a production like this to the stage?

Grease was a student-led musical production and CSS’s biggest since before COVID. It involved over 100 performers and production team members, including a live band from our school orchestra and vocal ensemble, under the direction of the Arts Faculty. More than 80 hours of dedicated rehearsal time was spent perfecting the song and dance routines.

Why are performing arts opportunities like this school musical in Hong Kong so beneficial for students?

Our school motto is, “Through this place we thrive, we serve and find our place in the world.” Performing arts opportunities strongly support this motto in nurturing well-rounded CSS students and developing key 21st-century soft skills like confidence, creativity, collaboration skills and an appreciation of the arts.

Enrolment 2024/2025

Applications for Form 1 through 5 at CSS are now being accepted for the 2024/25 academic year. The school offers a well rounded international education through its IBDP and HKDSE programmes, with an exceptionally low student-teacher ratio to support every child’s unique talents and interests.

CSS is at 3 Pung Loi Road, Tseung Kwan O.
2336 0233 | admin@css.edu.hk | css.edu.hk

 

This article interviewing CSS students about their school musical in Hong Kong and creating dance choreography first appeared in the Winter 2023/2024 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue. 



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