By Josh Whitener
Take a trip back in time to a world of leather jackets, poodle skirts, jukeboxes, milkshakes and drive-in movie theaters as the nonprofit Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts’ Pre-professional Program presents “Grease.”
Performances are scheduled for July 26, a Friday, at 7:30 p.m. and July 27, a Saturday, at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $10, and group rates are available. All performances take place at Fullwood Theater, 100 McDowell St. E. in Matthews.
The stage production is a family-friendly version of the popular musical, “Grease,” and has been edited for content to make it suitable for all ages, director Ron Chisholm said. It is not, however, abridged or shortened in any way, he added.
All cast members are students from the nonprofit’s two-week summer Pre-professional Program designed for teens in eighth through 12th grade who have an interest in pursuing a career in theater. The cast spent the first week learning the musical and the second week fine-tuning it, Chisholm said.
“It’s about the process of learning how to put a performance together,” he said. “We’ve got an incredible group of kids. It’s an audition-only program as opposed to a summer (camp) sign up. We’ve got some talented kids here and some great raw talent coming into it.”
Chisholm said the musical is popular among students for two reasons: everybody knows the music and characters, and the show is a timeless representation of high school culture.
“It’s (an age) group they can relate to,” he said. “The story has never changed. It still happens in today’s day and age. You’ve got the cool kids, the cheerleader, the positive children that drive people nuts. The only thing that’s changed is the fashioning trends. Everything else is the same, and that’s what I love about it. It’s an honest reflection of youth.”
Cast member Kayla Baresich said being able to relate to the characters will help her give a more authentic performance when she takes the stage as Sandy.
“We’re all in high school,” Kayla said. “Knowing we’re all around the age of the characters, we can understand the characters really well and what they’re going through, and we can act like them.”
Jared Dechant, who plays Danny, agrees.
“Teenagers are teenagers,” Jared said. “Throughout the ages, teenagers have always been the same crazy, wacky (people). They always stay the same, no matter what time period” they’re living in.
For Katlyn Gonzalez, who plays Rizzo, the best thing is getting to sing the familiar tunes and dive into the famous storyline and characters.
“My favorite thing about the show is the music,” Katlyn said. “It’s really upbeat and fun, but I also love the diversity of the characters. Just the story overall, with Sandy and Danny and the summer romance, is really cute and sweet.”
Chisholm said one of the most important things students have learned during their two weeks in the program is how to work as a team. Because of the intensity and speed at which the students have to memorize the script, teamwork isn’t an option – it’s essential, he said.
“It’s all about the team having to work together, moving along as the same,” Chisholm said. “… (The Pre-professional Program) teaches them to work as a team and a unit, and how everybody is important no matter what they have to do.”
For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.matthewsplayhouse.org, or call the box office at 704-846-8343.