By Luke Baynes
Danny, Sandy, Kenickie, Rizzo and the rest of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies will take the stage at Champlain Valley Union High School on Thursday night for the first of four performances of “Grease,” the definitive musical play of teen angst and raging hormones.
Set in the late 1950s, “Grease” premiered on Broadway in 1972 and didn’t close until 1980, after 3,388 performances. But perhaps better known today is the 1978 film version, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John as Danny and Sandy, the star-crossed lovers whose summer dreams are ripped at the seams by the start of senior year at Rydell High.
CVU Theatre Program Director Candy Padula said the CVU production is based on the 2007 Broadway revival of “Grease,” which incorporates some music from the film version but is mostly faithful to the original play by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.
“In the film, most of the big numbers are shared by Sandy and Danny, so the movie was really geared to highlight their big stars,” Padula said. “The wealth is spread out much more evenly in the play, so that’s nice, because we have a lot of talented kids.”
Padula said that in past years the CVU fall musical has consisted of three performances. She said she added a fourth show this year because of the enduring popularity of “Grease.”
“Everybody seems to love ‘Grease,’” she said.
That includes sophomore Juliet Walsh of Shelburne, who will play Sandy in the upcoming production.
“I’ve been watching the movie since I was little, and I’ve always loved it,” Walsh said. “So it was exciting to get to play Sandy.”
Walsh noted that she has used motivation from her personal memory bank to avoid imitation of Newton-John’s iconic performance.
“I try to stay true to my own interpretation and try not to compare myself to other performances I’ve seen,” she said. “I try to bring my own experiences and keep it truthful to myself. Because it’s set in high school and the kids are about our age, I think I’ve had a lot of the experiences Sandy has, and it’s relatively easy for me to connect.”
Charlotte resident Seamus Buxton, a junior, will play opposite Walsh in the role of Danny. His approach to his character is similar to his leading lady, although he admitted that the shadow of Travolta looms large.
“There’s definitely certain attributes that you have to bring to the part that Travolta exemplified so well, just that kind of swagger,” Buxton said. “So I did try to imitate that a little bit, as well as putting my own personal spin on the character.”
Buxton, who observed that ticket sales have been strong thus far, said he and his fellow cast members are prepared for a packed house.
“The whole cast is excited and we’re ready to put on a show for everybody,” Buxton said.
The Co-Curricular CVU Theatre Program will present four performances of “Grease:” Thursday, Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for general admission and $6 for students, children, faculty and staff. For more information about ticket availability, click the CVU Theatre link on the CVU website (www.cvuhs.org).