Out and About
“Grease” is the word – In conversation with “Teen Angel” Michael De Rose
Grease: The Musical is now playing at the historic Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto until December 10th. theBUZZ caught up with cast member Michael De Rose to chat about his roles as the iconic Teen Angel as well as the smarmy Vince Fontaine, and what audiences can expect from this new stage adaptation of this classic Summer Lovin story. The legendary Frankie Avalon made the cameo appearance as Teen Angel in the blockbuster movie, singing the wonderful “Beauty School Dropout” to Frenchy from his heavenly perch.
Michael is thrilled to be a part of the incredible Grease team. His selected credits include US National tours of Saturday Night Fever and Godspell, Return to Grace (RGA), Rock of Ages(Stage West Calgary; Betty nomination Best Supporting Actor), Legends of Rock n’ Roll, Aladdin (Drayton Entertainment), Avenue Q (STC), My Dinner with Casey Donovan (TPM), The Nerd (VPP), Blood Ties (Edinburgh Fringe), I Love You Because (Angelwalk), Queen for a Day (April 30th), The Wizard of Oz (Globe Theatre), She Loves Me (Rose Theatre), The Laramie Project (Column 13). Michael is a graduate of the Ryerson Theatre School. He wishes to thank the Talent House gang, Clayton, and his parents for letting him stay up past his bedtime to watch Grease on TV.
1. What can people expect from this new adaption of Grease? Does it remain fairly true to the original story line, or has there been any modern adaptations included?
It absolutely still maintains the original storyline, I think Grease has become such an iconic piece of Musical Theatre and such an identifiable part of the zeitgeist that the characters can often be portrayed as caricatures, versus actual teenagers navigating the sexual landscape of the late 50s. What audiences can expect in our world is to see more grit and a sense of who these people really are. We’ve mined the book for as much truth as possible. In terms of it being modern, we’ve tried to stay as true to the 50s sensibility as possible, we don’t want to get too contemporary. I think the beauty of Grease is that it captures a generation of people not dissimilar to our own, and its nice to remind audiences of the connective tissue between then and now.
2. Your role of Teen Angel is minor in the scope of the overall script, but also a vital component to the story line. What preparations have you had to do for this role, especially with it being completely musical?
I have a very interesting track in this show, as I play two characters who drive a lot of the action at the top of Act 2. I play Vince Fontaine who is a sort of smarmy, slick Disc Jockey who MCs the big dance contest, and then in the span of 1 minute at 45 seconds I flip into Moe, our Teen Angel, who perhaps isn’t who you expect him to be. So the big journey for me (and our director Josh and the costume/wig department) is how to separate these two men who appear back to back from each other. And it comes down to knowing the physicality and drive of both men, and a bit of magic to delineate the two. My preparation involved making both men distinct and different, and knowing them well enough that I can flip into either in the span of a minute.
3. Did you watch the film adaptation prior to hearing about auditions for this new stage production? If so, when and where? How about any stage adaptations?
I often try not to watch the source material of something I’m auditioning for or performing, because I like to prepare what I bring to the character without someone else’s choices impacting my own. I did however listen to Billy Porter’s version of Beauty School Dropout this summer when I found out I’d be doing it, mainly because it excited me, and his vocals on that song are unparalleled. If you’re not familiar give it a listen, he takes it to Church. It should also be mentioned that I religiously watched the film growing up, so at this point it feels like part of my DNA.
4. What’s a typical rehearsal day for you and the cast entail?
Generally our rehearsal days are all of us in a room for 8 hours testing out different versions of the choreography and scene-work to see which iteration was the most authentic, honest, and exciting. In terms of music it was about finding the right groove to sit back into, finding that Do Wop sensibility, and accessing the 1950s musically. It was a wild room to be in, with some of the most talent and creativity I’ve witnessed in a rehearsal hall.
5. I know Toronto is so ready to go see this show, and I’m wondering if that excitement and energy is feeding into the cast and crew as well, and how so?
Oh it really is. We can feel the excitement. We are so pumped to get Toronto grooving. I think everyone just feels ready to share our energy with the audience, and to get the crowds out of their phones and into our energy of joy and exctiement. It’s a nice and necessary antidote to the chaos of what we’re living in 2017. We just want to offer a jubilant escape for people, we want you singing and dancing on the way into the theatre…and on the way out!
Grab your tickets here to see Michael and the rest of this fabulous cast.
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.