Arts & Entertainment

Chiawana High picks 'Grease' for first big production

The T-birds and Pink Ladies will be back in high school acting cool when Chiawana High School presents Grease -- its inaugural show -- in the school's new theater opening April 23.

For Todd Westendorf, the show is much more than a simple musical.

"We all grew up on these kinds of shows. And even though critics dismiss fluff musicals as merely popular inartistic trash, we love them," said Chiawana's drama teacher and the musical's director.

"Musicals have the power to leave a collective carefree smile on the audience's faces," he said. "And in these days of cynicism, maybe a lighthearted comedy is just what we need."

There's no doubt Grease can fill the bill on the entertainment meter. In the film version, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John had the starring roles as Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski.

Chiawana High School's Danny and Sandy will be played by Ky Burton and Emily Nelson.

The snappy musical follows the antics of a tough-talking but harmless gang who call themselves the T-Birds.

Danny leads the pack that includes Kenickie, played by Clayton Calaway; Doody, played by Aaron Bleazard; Roger, played by Zach Buhler; and Sonny, played by Erik Nunamaker.

The gang's female counterparts are the smartmouthed Pink Ladies, led by Rizzo, played by Alexandra Cid; Frenchie, played by Heidi Dickenson; Marty, played by Julissa Sydnor; and Jan, played by Dee Boyle.

Though the story is a bit cheesy, the music is anything but. Songs like You're the One That I want, Greased Lightning, Beauty School Drop Out and Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee remain popular today.

When the stage version hit Broadway after the 1978 film came out, the New York Daily News called it "A lively and funny musical, as well as the dancingest one in town."

Westendorf agrees.

"Everyone knows the story and has seen the show on stage or the movie innumerable times," he said. "It is truly a slice of American culture."

The main story revolves around Danny and Sandy, who meet and fall in puppy love during summer vacation. But when summer ends and school begins, they go their separate ways.

Sweet and innocent Sandy, however, ends up unknowingly transferring to the same Rydell High School that Danny attends.

"This is a show designed to make you smile and laugh and relive some high school days," Westendorf said.

Performances continue April 24, 29-30 and May 1.

Admission is $10 adults, $8 students and seniors. Tickets are available at the door.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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