- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Starting next week audiences at this year’s Summerstock performances will be transported back to the 1950s, when beach romances blossom and thoughts of school are miles away, courtesy of the actors in “Grease.”
A perennial staple of community and high school theaters, the play focuses on the relationship between greaser Danny Zuko and beauty Sandy Olsson. The romantic comedy swirls around the teens’ summer romance in the 1950s, and the drama that follows when high school begins and their respective cliques join the picture.
The St. Mary’s County Department of Recreation and Parks has for decades produced a musical performance each summer. Past shows have included “Cinderella,” “Ragtime,” “Oliver” and “Crazy for You.”
The curtain opens for “Grease” on Friday, July 18, with shows running through that weekend and the next at Great Mills High School.
Wade Thompson of Hollywood has rejoined Summerstock as director this year.
Thompson directed shows in the mid-1990s before moving away from St. Mary’s. The Leonardtown High School graduate returned to St. Mary’s a few years ago, with a college theater degree.
The script for “Grease” includes sexual innuendos and adult language, Thompson said. The director said the Summerstock show is “cleaner” than the 1978, but is probably only appropriate for those in middle school or older.
The Summerstock show “features a lot of performers,” he said, and the cast ranges in age from 12 to 21.
“We’ve got a lot of great kids,” Thompson said. “A lot of really talented kids.”
In addition to directing, Thompson also created the set design. He said one of his primary objectives was to make sure the musicians performing the score could be seen by the audience.
The past few shows, he said, the musicians had been hidden behind the set. This year, the eight-member band will be positioned high atop a platform overlooking the stage. There are 22 songs in this production, including three that were written specifically for the movie version of “Grease,” Thompson said.
“Grease” premiered on Broadway in 1972. It was made even more famous thanks to the film starring John Travolta as Danny Zuko and Olivia Newton-John as Sandy.
Lauren Drewello stars as Sandy. “It’s kind of almost like a dream world for me to play her,” the 16-year-old Leonardtown High School junior said. She has acted in several shows at her school as well as other Summerstock performances with Newtowne Players community theater in Lexington Park.
Lovell Rose plays Danny Zuko. “I loved it. I watched [the movie] all the time as a kid,” he said.
The role is challenging, though, he said. “Danny’s a cool character, and very well known,” Lovell said.
Lovell praised Jemarc Axinto, the choreographer and a St. Mary’s College of Maryland graduate.
“He’s got some really great visions for ‘Grease,’” Lovell said.
When asked what part of the show will most impress the audience, the lead actors and others involved were all quick to point out the antique car sitting on the stage.
Stanley Hoopengardner, who is directing the band for the show, said they bought a 1947 Plymouth from someone in Virginia. Although the car featured in the movie was a 1948 Ford, the production’s Plymouth is a close substitute that’s destined to impress the audience, he said.
After towing it to St. Mary’s, Kessler Body & Equipment south of Lexington Park cut off the roof to make it a convertible and removed the engine so it was lighter to move.
The car, which is affectionately known as “Greased Lightning,” is sure to be a showstopper, Thompson said.