Even if you’ve never seen the movie “Grease,” you no doubt know some of the tunes — songs like “You’re the One that I Want” and “Greased Lightnin’” have become classics, while you may have even sung “Summer Nights” at Friday night karaoke.
Theatre St. John’s is taking the best songs from the movie and adding them to the 1971 broadway musical in its production of “Grease” at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre this week.
Directed by Keith Pike, the show will star local performers such as Kelly-Ann Evans as Betty Rizzo and Peter Halley as Teen Angel.
Singer/songwriter/actress Sabrina Roberts will make her debut with the theatre troupe, playing Sandy, the role made famous in the movie by Olivia Newton-John.
Performers from outside the province have been hired, as well. Ontario’s J.J. Thompson will reinvent John Travolta’s role as Danny, while Wade Muir, who has previously performed with Theatre St. John’s, will play Kinickie.
“It’s pretty much the movie on the stage,” Pike explained. “People are going to be expecting to see the movie, and that’s what they’ll get.”
“Grease” the musical was first performed in Chicago and is still one of Broadway’s longest-running shows, having been revived a number of times.
The movie was released in 1978 and, with a cast that included Newton-John, Travolta, Stockard Channing, Jeff Conaway and Frankie Avalon, was an immediate box office hit.
Set in a 1958 high school, “Grease” tells the story of a group of teenagers dealing with romance, cars, dances, pregnancy, schools and growing up.
“We wanted to start our fifth season with a bang, and ‘Grease’ just really popped out to us,” Pike said about the decision to present the musical.
In terms of casting, Pike said he knew what he wanted when it came to the role of Sandy: someone who could sing, obviously, and who had something of an innocent look about her, although she also had to have the ability to turn into the bombshell in spandex that Newton-John does at the end of the film. Roberts, he said, fit the bill right away.
Evans, no stranger to musical theatre either here or in Toronto, is 35, but can pull off teenage Rizzo’s character perfectly, Pike said.
“I had the opportunity to meet with Stockard Channing earlier this year,” he said. “We didn’t get to talk very much, but I found out later that she was 33 at the time she played Rizzo. Rizzo is definitely the most mature of the characters, and Kelly-Ann fits it well.”
Previous St. John’s Theatre productions have included “Annie,” “West Side Story,” “Little Women” and “Salt Water Moon.”
But “Grease” was one of the most fun Pike has been involved in, he said, thanks to the music, colour, set design and choreography.
“Grease” opens tonight at 8 p.m. and runs until Saturday night.
Tickets are $42.50 ($38.50 for seniors and students), including HST and service charges, and are available now at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre box office, online at www.artsandculturecentre.com, or by calling 729-3900.