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BHS hopes to return to its glory days of musicals with 'Grease'

Fundraising campaign features Olivia Newton-John promo


TIMES PHOTO: RAY PITZ - Shannon Dery, drama department head at Beaverton High School, said he wants to hit a pop and wow factor as the theater department pushes to raise $40,000 to perform Grease. The last time Beaverton High School’s drama department performed “Grease” was a quarter century ago. That was during the days when late theater director Jim Erickson would pull out all the stops, having the luxury of a large yearly musical budget which included an orchestra revolving around on a giant turntable perched inside a two-story jukebox. A car was hoisted onstage as well.

Now, current BHS drama director Shannon Dery and alumnus Michael Shafer-Montgomery want to return to those glory days by raising up to $40,000 to put on the 1950s-era musical.

And like Erickson before him, Dery is hoping to pull out all the stops.

It hasn’t been easy, though. It has proven to be tricky securing the rights to perform the musical, noting that “’Grease’ is another animal” when it comes to getting permission to perform it. In his quest, Dery has had to answer how many seats the BHS auditorium has (710 to be exact) and had to send actual photos of the school’s auditorium in order to obtain the rights.

“They said ‘You’re going to sell out,’” said Dery, who has no problem with that assessment, noting that he doesn’t believe musical performances have sold out en masse since the Erickson days. Erickson served as BHS theater director from 1971 to 2000, and died in 2004.

Costs alone for the rights to perform “Grease” were $6,250.

“It’s crazy,” said Dery, noting that the rights to last year’s rock music horror comedy, “Little Shop of Horrors,” were only $1,500. SUBMITTED PHOTO COURTESY OF MICHAEL SHAFER-MONTGOMERY - Olivia Newton-John does a brief promo for the upcoming BHS production of Grease, something director Shannon Dery hopes will help with ticket sales.

“When I got the bill for $6,000, I thought ‘Can we do ‘Bye Bye Birdie?’” he joked.

While Dery believes it was a different world when Erickson was doing musicals (“Grease” was performed in 1990 at BHS), he wants to help revive the Beaverton High spring musical tradition by having “as big a pop and wow” factor as possible.

So far, he’s received tremendous support from former Beaverton High School theater alumni who were involved with “Grease” or other Erickson performances.

“The alumni are coming out of the woodwork,” said Dery. “We’re actually going to cast a few people from the original cast.”

One of those enthusiastic former theater department students is Shafer-Montgomery, now chairman of the James N. Erickson Legacy Project and a former student actor.

“Since Erickson retired in 2000, the department has gone through staff changes and budget restraints,” Shafer-Montgomery, a 1988 BHS graduate, wrote in a news release, noting the decrease in the drama department’s budget from $50,000 to $5,000.

He said that actors and actresses in Erickson’s plays didn’t do high school theater, rather, “We did Broadway/professional caliber shows with elaborate sets and costumes with incredible choreography.”

Shafer-Montgomery said he has every confidence that “Grease” will reach the $40,000 goal.

To promote the event, Shafer-Montgomery — who knows Olivia Newton-John’s publicist — and another BHS alumnus who is related to the famed singer/actress by marriage, got Newton-John to do a quick blurb for the upcoming musical.

In the spot, Newton-John mentions that “Grease” is coming to Beaverton High. (Newton-John appears at the end of the video).

“I hope you all show up to save the spring musical,” she says.



The department has also set up an account through GoFundMe for anyone who wants to donate to the musical.

“I think that Olivia Newton John’s (promo) is going to be a big draw,” said Dery, who also is hopeful that the fundraising goal can be met.

In addition to the gofundme account, student actors and actresses have been raising money for the event by selling T-shirts, doing face painting at football games and selling concessions at other school sporting events. Dery is also approaching the Beaverton Education Foundation and the Beaverton High School Booster Club for donations.

Unfortunately, Dery said, nothing is left of the original “Grease” set (or props) and the production has to start from scratch. Still, he said he has an amazing group of actors and actresses at Beaverton High School that are up to the task.

Dery said he’d like to reach the fundraising goal in the next month or two so he can plan accordingly for the performances, which are set for May 4, 5, 6 and 7 (with both a matinee and evening show on May 7).

“Everyone’s chipping in and helping out,” said Dery. “It’s going to be a big challenge but it’s going to be fun.”