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updated: 7/7/2011 10:53 AM

'Grease' is the word at Naperville's Summer Place Theatre

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  • Hannah Hudson of Downers Grove plays Sandy and Vince Soto of Chicago plays Danny in Summer Place Theatre's production of "Grease." The show opens at 8 p.m. Friday, July 8, and continues on weekends through July 24 at Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Ave., Suite 131, Naperville.

       Hannah Hudson of Downers Grove plays Sandy and Vince Soto of Chicago plays Danny in Summer Place Theatre's production of "Grease." The show opens at 8 p.m. Friday, July 8, and continues on weekends through July 24 at Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Ave., Suite 131, Naperville.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer

  • The 15-member cast of "Grease" includes Shynell Owen of Naperville as Cha Cha and Brett Grease of Naperville as Vince.

       The 15-member cast of "Grease" includes Shynell Owen of Naperville as Cha Cha and Brett Grease of Naperville as Vince.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer

  • It's been 40 years since "Grease" first introduced audiences to characters such as Pink Lady Frenchy, portrayed in the Summer Place production by Gabi Knoepfle of Naperville.

       It's been 40 years since "Grease" first introduced audiences to characters such as Pink Lady Frenchy, portrayed in the Summer Place production by Gabi Knoepfle of Naperville.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer

  • Director Matt Whalen says one of the challenges of producing "Grease" is that the audience already knows the story and has high expectations for characters such as Danny, portrayed by Vince Soto of Chicago.

       Director Matt Whalen says one of the challenges of producing "Grease" is that the audience already knows the story and has high expectations for characters such as Danny, portrayed by Vince Soto of Chicago.
    PAUL MICHNA | Staff Photographer

 
By Megan Bannister
mbannister@dailyherald.com

While summer days are slowly drifting away, the Summer Place Theatre invites T-Birds and Pink Ladies out to enjoy a musical summer night.

The show is "Grease." The songs are catchy, the cast is young and the dancing is impressive.

"It's loved, I think, for the same reason that 'High School Musical' is popular," Director Matt Whalen said.

And 40 years after the initial performance, "Grease" is still the word.

Summer Place Theatre's cast of 15 will take to the stage Friday, July 8, in Center Stage Theater, 1665 Quincy Ave. in Naperville, to give a performance that producer Lynn Hodak believes encompasses "what summer should be about."

The show, which Whalen says "has been described as high voltage entertainment," runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through July 24. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m. with 3 p.m. matinees on Sunday.

With poodle skirts and drive-in movie dates, the Rydell High romance of Danny and Sandy is a musical classic. But Whalen is determined that the production will not simply be another rendition of a well-known classic.

"With a show as popular as this, the audience expects certain things, which I think they'll get," said Whalen, a past Summer Place Theatre board member. "But I wanted it to be something different too."

Before rehearsals began, Whalen immersed himself in reviews of the show's recent Broadway productions. He soon realized that most received criticism for characters who were "too squeaky clean" or were "cartoony and not convincing."

"I was trying to find a way to keep more of what I think that the authors originally intended it to be," Whalen said of "Grease."

The cast worked extensively to put their own stamp on each of the show's characters, ensuring a unique performance.

"Each one really brings something special to their role," Whalen said. "I think we worked hard at figuring out what makes each character special."

The cast, largely assembled of actors and actresses ranging from 16 years old to college aged, has been rehearsing together since mid-May.

"We truly have assembled some of the most energetic and best dancers in the area," Hodak said.

Outside of theatrical talent, the group has proved to both director and producer that they go together like "ramma lama ka dinga da dinga dong."

"This cast has blended so well together both personally and professionally and that really comes across onstage," Hodak said

Tickets, available online or at the box office, are $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors, and $12 for ages 5 to 12.

Even for those who grew up watching the film version of the musical or have seen the show live before, Whalen maintains that the cast will put on a performance not to be missed.

"This is truly one of the Summer Place's gems of all the shows we've done in a long time," Hodak said.

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