Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group
From left, Olympic Peninsula Academy students Malachi Byrne, Kailah Blake, Sasha Yada, Paloma Franco and Donovan Rynearson (with Lucca Shiefe in the background) rehearse a number for the upcoming production of “The Nifty Fifties.”

Michael Dashiell/Olympic Peninsula News Group From left, Olympic Peninsula Academy students Malachi Byrne, Kailah Blake, Sasha Yada, Paloma Franco and Donovan Rynearson (with Lucca Shiefe in the background) rehearse a number for the upcoming production of “The Nifty Fifties.”

OPA goes retro for ‘The Nifty Fifties’

Community invited to student productions at SHS auditorium

SEQUIM — At a mid-week rehearsal for Olympic Peninsula Academy drama class students, teacher Michele Canepa takes a break from helping the middle school and high school youths through lines.

She mentions Aiden Sisson, who plays popular rock musician Ziggy Springer in the upcoming school production of “The Nifty Fifties.”

“The first time he did the scene, he basically stood stock still,” Canepa said.

“We’ve talked about coming out of our shell. It’s a learning experience … socially and emotionally.”

But for a Sequim audience, this production is more like a chance to relive the 1950s.

Canepa and Dee Dee Nielsen direct “The Nifty Fifties,” a musical comedy by Tim Kelly that hits the stage for three performances (7 p.m. Friday and 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday) at the Sequim High School auditorium, 533 N. Sequim Ave.

The Pioneer Drama Service play — which includes a short production (“And the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon”) from OPA students in younger grades on Friday and the Saturday matinee — is free, though the school asks for a suggested $5 donation to help fund future drama productions.

Closing night features only “The Nifty Fifties” and includes a round of “bloopers” to share with the audience.

The story follows Gracie Stanley (Kailah Blake), who gets herself into trouble promising to deliver her distant cousin (rock star Ziggy Springer) for the high school dance at a local luncheonette. Unfortunately, Ziggy’s manager (Gabe Robbins) doesn’t want his client performing anywhere without pay, so Gracie and her friends have to produce a double. They plan to use a singing soda jerk and have him perform in the dark, all while avoiding the snooty Muffin Mansfield (Audrey Cabage), who’s waiting for Gracie to flop.

Along with the title tune, “The Nifty Fifties” includes 1950s-era music and lyrics by Bill Francoeur with such titles as “Bop-A-Lu-Bop Dance Party,” “Teen Queen,” “It’s Tough To Be a Teenager In Love” and “It Was The Blob.” OPA teacher Sara Benjamin assists with the students’ singing.

“We have an older community; they’ll really like this,” Nielsen said.

“It’s basically a teenage girl drama, including love triangles,” said student-actor Malachi Byrne, who plays basketball star George Bullock.

“[But] they have different ways to describe things, like ‘square’,” said Kaia McCarter, who plays the luncheonette-running Louise.

Despite the differences, many of the student-actors enjoy the production — particularly the song-and-dance numbers. Gabe Robbins, who plays dual roles as Ziggy’s manager and preppy guy John Black, said his favorite is the opening song because “everybody’s in it.”

Student-actor Kailah Blake, as Gracie Stanley, said her favorite is a dance scene with Ziggy Springer.

“All the songs are really catchy,” she said.

Other characters in OPA’s “The Nifty Fifties” include: preppy girls Rose Marie Famiano (played by Sasha Yada) and Evelyn Webber (Paloma Franco), rebel girls Ann Collier (Lexi Sterrett) and Jane Connol (Addy Adams), Jughead Jarvis (Donovan Rynearson), rebel Greg Anderson (Glenn McCarter), waitress Virgina Segal (Lucca Schiefen) and waitress Edna Stover (Abby Brittell-Brown).

Canepa said that, unlike many plays that host tryouts to fit actors to the roles, this play was chosen to fit the class: each drama class student gets a part.

Nielsen said OPA students in the spring of 2020 had selected “The Nifty Fifties” for their spring production.

“Then COVID happened,” she said.

OPA drama staff considered doing the play last year, but the ensemble was too small, she said.

This year, “The Nifty Fifties” fits, Nielsen said, with even a couple of students who missed out on the 2020 production coming back to help with sound and lights.

“[We’re] pretty much a family,” she said.

________

Michael Dashiell is the editor of the Sequim Gazette of the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which also is composed of other Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News and Forks Forum. Reach him at editor@sequimgazette.com.

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