Coming up on almost 50 years old, the classic musical that first debuted in 1971 is coming to Tuscaloosa. Take a step back in time as you attend Theatre Tuscaloosa’s summer musical production of “Grease.” This is the first time ever the musical has been presented by Theatre Tuscaloosa and the show will be hosted July 12-21 at the Bean-Brown Theatre at Shelton State Community College.
“Grease” is a love story based in the late 1950s between a rebel greaser, Danny Zuko, and the new “good girl,” Sandy Dumbrowski. The two experience a romantic summer together and, after what they thought was goodbye, are in disbelief when Sandy unexpectedly transfers to Danny’s school, Rydell High. Apart from the troubles they face on the road to love, such as disapproval from their friends, Danny and Sandy experience their trials together while relationships and friendships form along the way.
Stephen Tyler Davis, the show’s director, has watched this production come to life over the course of the process. Davis said the production process first begins with the music to which he had Musical Director Leslie Poss build a solid foundation of musical storytelling. Davis said they then moved to the second step of the process which is the choreography where Choreographer Lindsay Troha laid out great choreography for the show. The third step of the process is what Davis described as him putting the “puzzle pieces” together. During this process Davis stages the show, figures out what the sets are going to be and how everything is going to fit.
“‘Grease’ is a classic,” Davis said. “It’s something that people all over the world know and know the words to so it’s just a natural community builder, brings people together. It’s something that kids watch with their parents and grandparents. So it’s just a really great gift from Theatre Tuscaloosa to give to the community to bring people together for the summer. It’s a great activity and I love to kind of be at the helm of it.”
As many musicals often do, Davis said the production will differ from the movie and Theatre Tuscaloosa is striving to make the production fresh and new in their own way while still telling the story that the audience is expecting. The audience will still be able to experience the live “Grease” feeling as they are encouraged to sing along to their favorite songs such as, “We Go Together” and “You’re the One That I Want.” Davis expresses how proud he is of the cast and encourages everyone to get their tickets fast as they are selling quickly.
“It’s a really great community builder and the cast is just electric so I’m just grateful to be here for the Summer,” Davis said.
When it comes to acting and bringing the show to life, the cast can compare their own lives and personalities to the characters they are portraying and compare the similarities and differences.
Callie Walker, a student at the University of Alabama majoring in Musical Theatre, is playing the role of Sandy Dumbrowski. Walker recently finished up her year of being Miss Alabama for the Miss America Organization. Walker said getting to play both sides of Sandy is a lot of fun and she believes she can apply it to her own life.
“One of the biggest things that I’ve discovered, I mean obviously I feel like everyone knows if you’ve seen ‘Grease,’ she has definitely a huge character arch where she’s this kind of reserved girl that seems kind of conservative in her ways and then throughout the show she kind of discovers like, ‘okay, maybe there’s something out there that’s a little different that I could maybe apply to myself’ and I think that’s what the Pink Ladies really teach her and I guess really empower her to find another side of herself,” Walker said. “And that’s when sassy Sandy comes out at the end which is a lot of fun.”
Walker said she personally relates to the casual side of Sandy on a more day-to-day basis. But she also relates to the fancy side of Sandy after being Miss Alabama for a year.
“So I think that’s kind of the idea behind Sandy as well that I’ve been able to take for my real life is that, yes I am casual Callie during the day and this past year fancy Callie kind of came out too,” Walker said.
Nolan McKinney, a student at the University of Alabama majoring in musical theatre, is playing the role of Danny Zuko. McKinney said he overall enjoys playing the “bad guy” as the rebel heart of Zuko is not something McKinney realistically possesses. However, McKinney said he does relate to Zuko when it comes to the more caring and softer aspect of the character.
“I think deep down Danny does care about the people he loves and you can see that with not only Sandy, but also with Kenickie and Rizzo, because there is a deeper connection with him and the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies and I would consider myself really caring and sort of nurturing so I think that is a similarity,” McKinney said.
McKinney has played multiple characters in the past, however the character of Zuko does differ.
“I think sort of with all the other characters I’ve played there is just really one side of them, whereas Danny it’s almost like playing two characters in one because you have to sort of find the hard side of Danny and the soft side of Danny and decide when which side comes out,” McKinney said. “So, that’s a lot of fun to play around with.”
Margaret Carr, a senior at Central High School, will play the role of Betty Rizzo. Rizzo is the leader of the Pink Ladies and is known for her sarcastic and witty personality. Carr said she has a complex role by playing Rizzo as the character covers up her anger and hurt with her humor, and in reality she is insecure and does not feel loved.
“I’m very sarcastic and I think I also use humor to hide my hurt and my anger so it’s a weird transition going from like understanding that and then playing a role and being like I can’t make this like theatrical because I know what it feels like,” Carr said. “And I think that’s the downfall of some actors because they don’t understand that the people that they are playing are actual people too.”
Carr said the role of Rizzo has been a dream of hers because she feels she has always had a connection with the character. Carr encourages everyone to come see the show.
Tickets are $24 for adults, $20 for seniors and members of the military and $16 for students and children. For more information or to purchase tickets to see the show live click the link below.
For tickets and more information click here.