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Hopelessly devoted to ‘Grease’: DramaDock puts on the 1970s classic
This weekend, Islanders can take a trip back in time to a bygone era of sock-hops, poodle skirts and the nascent days of rock and roll, with a rollicking, all-youth production of the blockbuster musical “Grease.”
Fans of the show and the movie can expect all of the trademark humor, swing dancing and catchy songs that have made “Grease” one of the most popular musicals of all time. The show’s considerable charms will be delivered up by a group of almost 40 Island youth ages 11 to 19.
Doing “Grease” was the kids’ idea, said Elizabeth Ripley, Drama Dock’s artistic director and the main force behind the creation of the company’s vibrant Youth Theater Initiative program. This is her third time helming a youth production for the company, but she said that this time she’s been especially struck by the participants’ enthusiasm for the show.
“The children’s energy, the children’s excitement about this project have made this show special,” she said. “The kids lobbied for this show, they wanted it.”
Casting the show was difficult, Ripley said, because so many young thespians wanted to be in it.
“I could have cast this show three times with different configurations,” she said, noting that that everyone who came out for auditions got a part in the play.
It also wasn’t easy, she said, to get rights to the show, or to afford the royalties for it.
“It’s really horrendously expensive, the rates of a currently running Broadway show,” she said. “It made me come to a full stop in my tracks, and ask, ‘Can we do this?’”
As it turns out, Drama Dock could, after Ripley and her cast organized a successful car-wash and bake sale, both held last summer, to help fund the show. Ripley has also posted a lively video, featuring the Vashon cast of “Grease,” on the fundraising website Kickstarter.com — donations to help defray the costs of the show are being accepted there until Oct. 21, the closing night of “Grease.”
In the meantime, the young cast members are reaping the benefits of Ripley’s persistence.
Quinn McTighe is a high school freshman cast in the leading role of Danny Zuko, a love-struck 1950s Romeo with greased-back hair.
He said he loves performing the role, and doesn’t mind following in the fancy footsteps of John Travolta, who immortalized the role in the film version of “Grease.”
“It’s really inspiring,” he said, referring to Travolta’s performance. “It gets me to try and work harder so I can be as close to his legacy as possible.”
This is McTighe’s third outing with Drama Dock’s Youth Theatre Initiative — he also starred in “Godspell” and had a featured role in “Into the Woods” — and he praised Ripley and the program for providing him with both a good education and good times.
“You learn a lot about the way a musical works, in contrast to a play,” he said. “You learn about singing and dancing, and you get to meet a bunch of people. It’s cool to explore different kinds of theater.”
Olivia Mangione, a high school sophomore who is playing the female lead of Sandy in the show, said her favorite part of being in the show is spending so much time with the other kids in the cast.
“I just love being able to work with other people,” she said. “It’s a big community, and it’s really fun.”
Ripley, for her part, hopes audiences have as good a time at the show as the kids have had in bringing it to the stage.
“My take on the show is that the message is, ‘we go together,’” she said, quoting the lyrics from one of the songs in the show. “We can have our cliques but we can also see each other as part of a great community. I think the kids are really digging this message.”
Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Vashon High School. Get tickets ($15, $10 and $5) at Vashon Bookshop or at the door.