PARIS – “Grease” is the word throughout the hallways and classrooms at the Oxford Hills Middle School where some 80 students are preparing to perform in the school’s first musical in 15 years.

“This is going to be huge. A huge hit,” said Robin Galley, who has been asked to direct the seventh- and eighth-grade musical at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School on May 3 and 4, 2008.

A former NFL cheerleader with the Houston Oilers, a Broadway dancer and an artistic director for a community theater in Texas, Galley brings to the stage a wide range of professional experience and a desire to showcase the talent in the middle school children.

“I really wanted to share it with the kids,” she said of her experience and love of theater. Galley said she knew what this type of experience could bring educationally to the children, and it was an easy sell to school Principal Hal Small.

“He was so for it. He supports it tremendously,” she said of Small’s reaction to the proposal.

Small said the introduction of theater arts in the middle school will help increase students’ ability to read, memorize, perform in front of their peers, work together, see a project from start to finish, be proud of their accomplishments and more.

“Eighty percent is the support,” Galley said.

The students agree.

“It’s going to help me with my self-confidence,” said James Cronin, who plays Doody.

Autum Potter, who plays the female lead role of Sandy, said she had no intention of even trying out and ended up with the lead part.

“I was trying to find an outlet for my drama,” said Elizabeth Donovan, who plays Rizo.

Brett Parson, who plays Roger, is a veteran in the drama department. “I like blending into a new character,” he said.

The actors started rehearsals on Monday after recent auditions drew an unexpected number of students.

“I hoped to get 20 kids. I got 80,” Galley said. “That really told us this was very much needed.”

With the financial help of $650 from Norway Savings Bank, the rights to perform the musical were purchased from the Samuel French Publishing Co. and the school’s production was off and running.

“This middle school, I swear, the talent here is as good as the high school. They’re not afraid to come out of their box. If you don’t play sports there’s not a lot to sink your teeth into. They’re just so excited,” Galley said.

Jennah Iggulden, a language arts teacher at the middle school who has a minor in theater, will be assistant director. Shirli Allen-Heald, who has worked with children for many years, will be directing music for the production.

The leads are: Danny, played by Channing Locke; Sandy, played by Autum Potter; and Frenchy, played by Kathe Washburn.

Others in the production include James Cronin as Doody, Brittany Turnbull as Jan, Brett Parsons as Roger, Kyli Labrecque as Cha Cha, Spencer Newman as Sonny and Elizabeth Donovan as Rizo.

Ian Vail plays the role of Kinickie, Alyssa Wyman as Patty, Matthew Walsh as Johnny Casino, Lacey Landry as Marty, Robby Emerick as Eugene and Morgan Hanson as Miss Lynch.

Two adult actors in the play are Matt Delamater, an experienced actor from Auburn who will play Frankie Avalon, and Peter Lawton, another experienced actor from Waterford who will assume the role of Vince Fontaine.

“I’ll work with kids any day. They’re not afraid to try anything,” said Galley, who moved from Texas to Waterford with her eighth-grade daughter and husband, who works for Maine Machine Products Co. in Paris.

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