The complexities of peer pressure, teenage angst, politics, personal core values and love — along with classic 1950s rock and roll and nostalgia — are all at play for the start of the summer season, as State College Community Theatre presents “Grease” June 18-21 at the State Theatre.
“Grease” is a 1971 musical, with book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. Named for the 1950s United States working-class youth subculture known as greasers, “Grease” follows ten working-class teenagers as they deal with social issues such as teenage pregnancy and gang violence. Its various themes include love, friendship, teenage rebellion, sexual exploration during adolescence, and, to some extent, class consciousness and class conflict. In addition, the score attempts to recreate the sounds of early 1950s rock and roll.
The SCCT’s production of “Grease” is directed by Rachael Gigar, a State College resident and recent graduate from Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, with choreography by Becca Beck and music direction by Colleen Kennedy. A young, talented cast features Tyler Rudloff as Danny Zuko, Raven Althouse as Sandy Dumbrowski, Rachael Ruhl as Betty Rizzo, Dori Puzycki as Frenchy, and many others.
“State College Community Theatre is excited to bring this classic show to the stage for our community,” producer Luke Skerpon said. “Bringing the excitement of musical theater paired with talented young people meets the educational initiatives of SCCT.”
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An 8-year run on Broadway and two subsequent revivals, along with innumerable school and community productions have made “Grease” one of the world’s most popular musicals. Featuring Rydell High’s senior class of 1959, “Grease” recalls the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley — songs that became the soundtrack of a generation.
“‘Grease’ is a musical classic that everyone knows and loves,” Gigar said. “It is the story of Danny and Sandy, who meet over the summer, say their goodbyes, and return to school to find that they are attending the same school. It is a story about friendship, love and discovering who you want to be.”
Danny and Sandy meet with their respective group of friends and share their perspectives of their summertime fling on the popular “Summer Nights.” Danny, the leader of the greaser gang, the “Burger Palace Boys,” brags about the physical aspects of the relationship, while Sandy remarks to the schoolgirl clique, the “Pink Ladies,” about her emotional attachment to Danny.
Other fan-favorite songs from the musical include “Greased Lightnin’,” “It’s Raining on Prom Night” and “Beauty School Dropout.”
The cast rehearsed for nearly five weeks, getting costumes, props and set done at the same time that they were learning the music, blocking and choreography.
“This cast is quite special,” Gigar said. “Over half of them are high school students or recent graduates, so they have shown immense dedication to the show while still keeping up with their schoolwork and other obligations.”
“We are excited to have so many high school students from our community involved in the show along with dedicated veterans of our theatre company,” Skerpon said.
SCCT’s version of “Grease” is sure to give audiences the same feeling as other previous productions, but the difference between this production and others is the cast. Gigar has very dedicated and talented individuals in the cast and she cannot wait to see what they do.
“My production team and I worked to make sure that the show had the classic ‘Grease’ feel, but we wanted to make sure that we were showcasing the talents of the cast throughout the process as well,” she said. “Some things will look different than what you might expect, but you’ll be humming along to the classic songs the entire time.”
As director, Gigar aims to share with the audience the importance of friendship and tell the story of young love and self-discovery.
“Those are some deep concepts, and I think during numbers like ‘We Go Together’ and ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do,’ you will see those themes come through,” she said. “However, I also want to support the classic idea that musical theater should let an audience have fun and feel like they want to get up and dance. ‘Greased Lightnin’ ’ and ‘Hand Jive’ will make sure that you leave with a smile.”
Gigar also wants every person who comes to see this show to be proud of what the young people of the community can do when they come together and share their talents.
“I want the audience to know that the cast worked very hard to put the show together — the talent on the stage is going to blow them away,” she said. “I also want the audience to want to tell everyone they know that they should come see this show — it’s going to be a blast!”
Tickets for “Grease” are available from 10 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday by calling 234-SCCT or online at www.SCCTonline.org.