Grease Is Still The Word

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Rim Country student actors have set out to prove that "Grease" is still the word.

"Grease," the Tony Award-nominated musical that Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey penned in 1972 -- about 1950s American high school subculture -- will be performed in Payson April 27, 28 and 29.

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Starring as the The Pink Ladies are Jamie Rusovick (Rizzo), Jen Sandoval (Frenchy), Kaitlyn Phylow (Marty) and Heidi Haworth (Jan).

"The pink ladies are the turning force of this entire play," said director Lynn Haworth. "When we saw the four girls together on stage that was it. They are cute and dynamic. Their voices -- alto, soprano, second soprano -- seem to automatically harmonize together. They clicked together and have done a lot of their own blocking and own little bits."

In the 1978 movie, the greasers called themselves the T-birds, but in this production, they are called the Burger Palace Boys.

"Once we got the five who could sing, we placed them in the characters they were best suited to," Haworth said.

Love, friendship, rebellion and the emotions that go with them are states all adolescents grapple with in this production.

The play is "very much like" high school according to Troy Wayland who plays Roger.

"I think of my role in the show as a comic relief," said Wayland. "I have a couple of funny lines then a couple of serious lines, but they don't take me very seriously.

"You'll see me hanging out with (the Burger Palace Boys) and batting them around. Roger is kind of a clown who puts other people on and that's one of the things I do at school for fun."

Kylea Donaldson plays a teen angel during the song, "Beauty School Drop Out."

"In some ways this mirrors real life high school in some ways it doesn't," said Donaldson.

Some characters she said remind her of her real-life friends.

"You can see the different people in ‘Grease' and how they interact with each other. The Pink Ladies don't like Patty (a goodie two shoes) and in school that happens a lot -- one clique doesn't like another," Donaldson said.

"And the guys kind of act stupid in the play," she added. "But that's kind of like all guys."

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Starring as The Burger Palace boys are Silas Eckstein (Kenickie), Geoff Kaufman (Doody), Troy Wayland (Roger) and Jerrod Walton (Sonny).

Alexis Hilliard plays a teen and one of the Roulettes in the band, the Casino and the Roulettes.

"‘Grease' is fun because we are playing high schoolers that are basically our own age," Hilliard said. "It's like playing life. Sometimes it seems like you could really break out of a scene and sing and dance in real life."

The high school version of "Grease" follows the Broadway play which came before the 1978 movie.

"There were all kinds of concessions made to Olivia Newton John to get her to play Sandy," Haworth said.

Newton and John Travolta headlined the 1978 movie as lovers Sandy and Danny.

The song, "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and Newton's duet with Travolta, "You're the One That I Want" were written for the movie.

Neither of those songs is in the play.

"By the time the audience gets through watching our play they will not miss those songs," Haworth said.

Major script changes are not allowed.

The beginning scene called for a certain set of characters but did not say much about where they have been for the last 10 years.

That was open to interpretation.

The powers-that-be mulled over the appropriateness of "Grease" for some time, deciding whether a teenage pregnancy in the script was appropriate for a high school setting said Haworth.

"We have avoided being blatant about it," Haworth said.

‘Grease' begins with a reunion 10 years after graduation.

Pink Lady Rizzo and Burger Palace Boy Kenickie are married and expecting an addition to the family.

Sandy and Danny are still together.

The geek Eugene (played by Seth Draper) has become a Bill Gates figure and Pink Lady Frenchy (played by Jen Sandoval) still has wild hair.

"Some of the original suggestive song lyrics have been shortened and cleaned-up for the high school version so I think that everybody who sees it will say, ‘Oh, it just went by too fast.'" Haworth said. "‘I need to see it again.'"

Running time is about an hour and a half sans intermission.

"I have a perfect cast," Haworth said. "We had a fair number that came out for audition so we had choices. It is remarkable to have an entire cast for musical theater that can sing."

Producing the play has not been without its share of challenges.

"The kids' choral scores do not match the piano scores which doesn't match the band score, and the lyrics don't match the script," Haworth said. "But pit director Daria Mason has been fabulous."

Costuming for ‘Grease' couldn't have been done with thrift stores in town, but they rolled a gutter ball in the search for bowling shirts.

"I'd go into the thrift stores and ask the older ladies, ‘What were you wearing in the 50s?' They'd just go off with stories," Haworth said.

"They have kept their eye out for costumes and put clothes aside -- temple skits, straight skirts, fancy dresses for the dance contest, some different shoes."

Scheduling rehearsal time on the PHS stage that is used for just about everything in town was another big obstacle, yet the cast has been able to practice with the band much earlier than in past years.

"This town needs a second venue," said Haworth.

Still, with the commitment of the students the musical will go on.

"Grease" stars Travis Walton as Danny and Rebekah Sandoval as Sandy.

"I'm just thrilled that I am getting to direct this," she said. "I'm just having a heck of a good time. I'm having a blast working with them, there's no doubt about that."

Showtimes

7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27

4 p.m. Friday, April 28

7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29

Payson High School Auditorium

Tickets

At the door: Adults $6 • Seniors $5 • Students $4

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