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Friday, July 1, 2022

Performer revels in role as Teen Angel in ‘Grease’ staged in The Villages

Back in the 1980s, Mark Steven Schmidt had his first encounter with Teen Angel in “Grease.”

“It was 34 years ago, and I never thought in my life that I would ever play this role again,” Schmidt said Thursday after his dynamic opening night performance in “Grease.” The Savannah Center musical runs through Saturday and is sold out.

Mark Steven Schmidt first played Teen Angel in Grease back in the 1980s
Mark Steven Schmidt first played Teen Angel in “Grease” back in the 1980s.

“Now I’m back with Teen Angel, and it feels great,” Schmidt, 57, said. “When I first played the part, they dropped me down from a pedestal near the top of the stage. Tonight, I only had to walk down a couple steps. That was enough.”
Such are the concessions to age.

“My hair didn’t feel right for the part, so I dyed it this morning,” added Schmidt, who turns 58 this weekend. “I wanted everything to be as perfect as it can be, and I always feel that way about my performance. I want to make each one better.”
It would be difficult to top Schmidt’s performance in this production of “Grease.” The classically trained operatic tenor brought a fresh musical approach to Teen Angel’s musical standard, “Beauty School Dropout.”

The cast of Grease is decked out in 1950s teen fashions in contrast to Teen Angel
The cast of “Grease” is decked out in 1950s teen fashions in contrast to Teen Angel.

He turned the 1950s’ oldie sounding number into operatic pop, combining tenor and falsetto sounds. Think Frankie Valli meets Andrea Bocelli. The audience loved it and Schmidt received a rousing ovation.
“I love hitting those falsetto notes,” said Schmidt. In addition to the sound, Schmidt’s look was also different from the rest of the cast. He wore an angelic white glimmering suit. Most of the rest of the hot rod teens and Pink Ladies in “Grease” were decked out in leather jackets and poodle skirts.
“Everyone worked hard, it’s great being a part of this,”  Schmidt said.
He has lived in The Villages for much of the past decade and holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Binghamton University. Schmidt  taught music and performed throughout the world for over three decades.
HIs resume includes performing in such works as “Pagliacci,” “La Traviata,” and “Die Fledermaus.”  But, as Frenchy from “Grease” might say: “the guy digs being Teen Angel.”
The reason is simple.
“It’s so much fun,” Schmidt said.


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