Colleges of the Fenway has two new musical stars! Mordecai SooJay Choi, a student at Wentworth Institute of Technology and Leah Cretella from Massachusetts College of Art and Design are set to star as Danny Zuko and Sandy Olsson in this spring’s COF Theater Project production of GREASE. Both first-year students, Mordecai and Leah, new to the COF Theater Project this year, learned about the program opportunities during opening week and by attending the fall production “An Evening of David Ives”.
“Although past COF Theater Project productions have incorporated singing, music, and dance a lot of students wanted to do a full scale musical’,Tom Davison, Director of the COF Theater Project, said. With a commitment to involving students in the selection process Tom asked for requests or suggestions and a core group of long-time Theater Project members came back to him with what he agreed was a great choice…GREASE
Even so, he never anticipated such a response. “At the first audition, the line of students to sign-up was literally out the door! We had 85 students show up, including a great group of students interested in technical theater. There was excitement buzzing through the theater. One of the most important things for me is to give anyone who wants to participate the opportunity to do so.” Small group auditions were held first to see how actors worked together and allowed Davidson to identify students for call backs. Small group singing auditions followed next which can be one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of the process.“With small group auditions, seven to ten students sing the song together, and then we went down the line and everyone had a chance to sing the same part of the song. In this format, the students support each other, and it also makes it pretty clear who are the strong singers”, Tom said.
Both Mordecai and Leah prepared for the auditions by reading the scenes and familiarizing themselves with the music. Leah shared she “knew most of the music already since it’s such a classic” but still spent time considering which role was the best fit. Although originally auditioning for the role of Marty, Leah was pleasantly surprised to be cast in the lead. Mordecai auditioned for three different roles before being cast as the lead T-Bird, Danny Zuko. His secret to auditioning is to be comfortable enough with the scenes to the point of not holding the script, but fresh enough so not everything is 100% memorized. Davison shared “deciding on the leads was a challenge. I said this to the whole group multiple times during the audition process, the level of talent is incredible. I could have easily cast a whole other group in lead roles.”
Portraying the leads characters Danny and Sandy will require Mordecai and Leah to spend many hours perfecting the special connection the musical calls for. Mordecai believes “to be willing to share a stage with a fellow actor/actress is a huge act of trust, whether it’s on Broadway or in a high school. You need to trust your partner to say their lines correctly and respond accordingly to your actions and vice versa. The connections between actors span much further than the lead roles. “The friends I have made through the COF Theatre Project are some of the closest friends I have made in my college career so far. The friendships also extend from the theatre. Because I can trust them on stage, I am more inclined to trust them in real life as well. We have laughed, cried, hung out and made memories together” said Mordecai. Leah echoes those sentiments, sharing “I think being able to have the opportunity to meet all of these people that I otherwise wouldn’t really enhances my student experience. I feel like theater automatically gets you to know people really well, everyone really has to open up.” Both agree the COF Theater Project feels much more like a family than a program and it’s “a place where you can come and just be yourself.”
A mere three weeks away from the opening performance, the actors continue to balance academics, work, co-curricular involvement, and this unique experience. “There are students from all six COF schools in the cast, and we have wide representation in our technical student group. In addition, our choreographer is from MCPHS, our stage manager is from Mass Art, our technical director and our assistant director are from Wentworth”, said Davison.
Mordecai hopes the show will “impact the COF student body to come and join or even tryout for future plays and musicals.” His goal as an actor is “to bring laughter and offer an escape for my audience.” Leah and the cast are already preparing for record audience numbers. “Half my family is coming to see the show!” she said. Tom believes the choice of GREASE “will bring in more of the COF community who have not attended a Theater Project show before.”
Don’t miss your chance to see this amazing production March 31- April 2 at MassArt, Tower Auditorium. Tickets are available at: www.ticketpeak.com/cofperformingarts