“Grease” is the word at Redmond’s SecondStory Repertory (SSR), July 9-17. Tickets are $10 at www.secondstoryrep.org or (425) 881-6777.
This is the “school version” of Jim Jacobs’ and Warren Casey’s wildly popular musical about greasers and preppies at the fictional Rydell High School in 1959. It’s been trimmed down and toned down to be more family-friendly. And it features a cast of local 13-to-19-year-olds who are spending their summer learning the songs, dances and dialogue, directed by professional theatre artists.
“Grease” began at Chicago’s Kingston Mines Theatre, later was a Broadway hit and grew even more well-known through the 1978 movie with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
The stage show and movie are not identical, but no matter when or where you discovered “Grease,” the basic premise has timeless appeal, because it is “a slice of American life, set to music,” said SSR artistic director Susanna Wilson.
“It tells the old story of opposites attracting as boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finally gets girl back again,” Wilson noted. “It is not an original story. But is one that we tell over and over again. And it is a story that ‘Grease’ tells so well through the toe-tapping, iconic music of the 1950s. It endures because its story endures. And the music is great.”
Yet also, Wilson pointed out, “All of us, young and old, understand the fundamental feelings underlying each character, large and small — the fear of not fitting in, not belonging. I chose this show for the teens because this state of being is constant for them as they discover their path through life. Simply put, they get it!”
Taylor Stutz, a junior at Redmond High School (RHS) this fall, is starring as “bad boy” Danny Zuko.
After learning that he won the role, “I was super excited because I got to be the leader of the Burger Palace greaser gang … as Danny, I get to act so different from the person I am in my everyday life,” said Stutz. “I am not a rebel like Danny Zuko, but hey, I can’t say I don’t like the ladies like he does!”
Stutz echoed Wilson’s observation that some aspects of high school never really change.
“People of all ages have experienced the angst that comes with the teenage years and easily relate to the characters and storyline associated with ‘Grease,'” said Stutz. “The plot may not fit exactly to the social norms of today’s society, but nothing has changed about those precious high school years. Current students relate to ‘Grease’ because they are living it and people of older generations want to relive the good times of their high school summers.”
Laura McFarlane, a senior at RHS will play Danny Zuko’s love interest, “good girl” Sandy Dumbrowski. She and RHS junior Jessica Christian, who is playing Ms. Lynch, offered some thoughts on why people who’ve only seen the movie of “Grease” will be pleasantly surprised by the differences here.
“This version has songs that are not in the movie,” McFarlane noted.
Christian stated, “In the movie, there’s not as much energy in the room — the cool thing about seeing the live performance is you can feel energized from all the upbeat song and dance numbers and you’re right there in the same boat, with the actors.”
Playing Cha-Cha and a cheerleader, Sarah Lavender, a senior at RHS concurred, “We are right up close and personal!”
And you’ll get to know a wider variety of characters in this live production than in the movie, the teens remarked.
Stutz explained, “The movie focuses on the relationship between Danny and Sandy more than other characters … the live production, on the other hand, is much more focused on the ensemble aspect, giving the show greater depth and possibly appealing to more audiences. Both productions contain the same classic plot, but for those who wish to see local teens perform in an old favorite and are open to the slightly different world of this school version, this is the show to see.”
Another refreshing difference, according to Dani Hobbs, a RHS junior cast as a Burger Palace Girl, understudy for Doody and understudy for Rizzo, is “The movie’s characters are played by adults whereas our production is with kids the same age as the characters, for the most part.”
Also performing in SSR’s production of “Grease” are Keith Roper, Sydney Smiley, Olivia Ochoa, Giselle Gudenkauf, Sarah Hubert, Kyle Love, Jake Love, Peter Castro, Collin Byrne, Gavin Welton, Kenadi Taylor Silcox, Christa von der Berg, Amani Moyer-Ali, Alyssa Foster, Katie Jung, Aspen Ranz, Marianna Castro, Bryn Culbert and Lauren Worthington.