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  The cast of Berkley High School’s musical “Grease” had been getting ready for their three show dates at the end of March, but the closing of schools across Michigan led to the cancellation of their production.

The cast of Berkley High School’s musical “Grease” had been getting ready for their three show dates at the end of March, but the closing of schools across Michigan led to the cancellation of their production.

Photo provided by John Hopkins

Coronavirus pandemic affects local high school musical productions

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 17, 2020

FERNDALE/BERKLEY — Students at both Ferndale and Berkley High schools had been hard at work for months preparing for their respective spring musicals.

For Ferndale, their production of “She Loves Me” was expected to bow March 21 for five performance dates. The following weekend, Berkley students were to perform their musical, “Grease.”

With the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States and Michigan itself, the productions have either been put on hold or canceled outright after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced March 12 that all K-12 school buildings will be closed in the state from March 16 through April 5.

Berkley’s production of “Grease,” originally scheduled for March 27-29, now has been canceled. District Drama Coordinator John Hopkins said he and his students were “devastated” by the news that they wouldn’t be able to perform their show for their families and friends.

“At the same time, not a single kid was angry or felt like they were being wronged or somebody was taking something away from them,” he said. “They totally understood that this is for the good of the community. This is for the good of their grandparents, who may have come into town to see them in ‘Grease,’ who may have paid with their lives.”

Hopkins said that, when actors do their jobs right, they create actual people, and when directors do their jobs right, they create actual settings and sets of circumstances.

So when everyone does their job right, Hopkins said, the production’s cancelation is much more than just losing a show.

“We’ve worked harder on this show than we have any show, because ‘Grease’ is a bigger show,” he said. “We got a lumber delivery to finish building our set — which is probably the most expensive lumber order I’ve ever placed — (it) was delivered (last week).

“The kids are a little bit broken right now because they’ve gotten to know these people. Also, the combination of people is so fantastic, and that teamwork has created such outstanding work, that the thought of not being there for the next two weeks for long nights and being with their colleagues and getting each other through some big stuff, that takes a lot away from a kid.”

For Ferndale students, the situation with their musical, “She Loves Me,” is more up in the air. Theater Director Melissa Smith-Maurer told the Woodward Talk that the show is postponed from its original dates, and now they hope to hold one performance in late April.

“This is obviously very disappointing news,” she said. “I understand all the reasons for it. It’s just hard to have to have that conversation with our students.”

The school’s one show now is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, though Smith-Maurer said that everything is “very fluid” at the moment.

“It’s difficult,” she said. “We’ve got students that have been a part of our program since they were in elementary school that are seniors now, and it’s not just that they’re seniors, but they’re culminating all these years — a culminating opportunity — and to think they might miss that is very gut-wrenching, to be honest.”

While the situation is not ideal, Smith-Maurer felt it was better than nothing

“Obviously, we would love to have the community there, but really, our thinking was we want to make sure that the parents and these students’ families get to come and celebrate their achievements.”