'Grease': Poodle Skirts, Leather Jackets And 1950s Attitude

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It takes grease, of the elbow variety, to put musical theater in motion. After two months, high school students and their adult directors are now in dress rehearsals for "Grease," the stage version.

The curtain opens on a cast of 25, at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, in the Payson High School auditorium, for the first of three performances.

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

"I'm telling you, these kids are just oozing with talent," said director Lynn Haworth.

Travis Walton, a Center for Success senior, plays Danny in "Grease," a contrast from his swashbuckling role in the recent production of "Scaramouche."

As Danny, Walton jumps forward several centuries to get into the mindset of a 1950s teenager. He will sing in a role for the first time.

"I (recently) saw ‘Grease' performed on stage by another high school in the Valley so I could get some ideas because I had no idea what I was doing," Walton said.

"The play is so much different than the movie."

The high school version follows the Broadway play, which came first.

The songs "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and Olivia Newton John's duet with John Travolta, "You're the One That I Want," were written for her so she would make the 1978 movie.

Neither of those songs are in the play.

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

The actors are supported by a crew that includes seven musicians and at least 16 people behind the scenes.

The band is made up of three high school students playing the drum set and saxophone, and four community members, playing piano, bass and two guitars. "With an ensemble of this quality and a book this fun to play, we had one rehearsal alone and one with actors just for vocals," said Daria Mason, musical director. "Then we put it together for two stage rehearsals before this week's dress rehearsals.

"I cannot thank these musicians enough for giving their time and talent."

When the publisher edited out the non-G-rated material, they did so for conductor and pianist, but not any of the other parts. As you can imagine, it took quite a bit of time and cooperation between musicians and actors to straighten it all out.

"This group is enthusiast, motivated to learn and they remember the moves," said choreographer Christy Walton. ‘I've been wowed from week to week of practice because the students know their routines."

Approximately 20 cast members showed up on time to sing and dance in the teaser performance at the community sock hop. The boys had their hair slicked back, some had gone out and bought jeans for the occasion, the girls were dressed up and they really got into the sock hop -- they got into the chicken and other dances.

"They followed through and I was really proud of them," Walton said.

"Grease" technical director and former PHS drama student Thomas Walling is once again working hard with his crew, which includes his former drama teacher John Siler and current PHS drama teacher Kathy Siler as make-up and property master respectively.

Drama student Rachel Timmer, AGE is the stage manager. Her last gig as stage manager was for "Honk!" with Kathy Siler directing.

"Mrs. Siler and Mrs. Haworth have very different ways of directing," Timmer said.

"They are both fun, but Mrs. Siler is more uniform and streamlined. Mrs. Haworth really likes getting into it and showing kids exactly what she wants.

A stage manager's job is to help the director and block scenes (where actors are supposed to be on stage).

"Rachel tells me what I said," Haworth said. "She's a big help."

The lights on the stage direct the audience's attention said light crew head Calvin Legassie.

When the Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys sing the back and forth verses of "Summer Nights" the lights must be aimed and timed in a cross-fade to perfectly highlight them -- soft ambience for the still group and bright light for the singers.

Colored gels are also used to create mood.

Although major script changes are not allowed, the high school version of the Broadway play by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey has been toned-down from their movie version. Suggestive song lyrics have been cleaned-up.

PHS Drama Department: "Grease"

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 4 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Payson High School Auditorium

Cost: $5/adults, $4/seniors, $3/students in advance; tickets available at Payson Public Library or Oasis Christian Bookstore. Tickets also on sale at the door for an added $1.

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