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Welcome to 1959, setting of the musical "Grease." At Rydell High School, students are returning to school after summer vacation. A group of friends reconnect, and the innocent Sandy and the super-cool Danny embark on a rocky romance.

Their story is played out to an original score that could have been pulled from the radio waves of the period. Think "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "You’re the One that I Want," "Summer Nights" and "Born to Hand Jive."

"Grease," one of the most popular musicals ever written, opens today at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse as the final show in MNM Theatre Company’s 2018 season.

Written and composed by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, the show is based on Jacobs’ experiences as a student at a Chicago high school. It gets its name from the 1950s working-class subculture known as greasers.

But as the musical made its way from its gritty beginning in a Chicago nightclub to Broadway in 1972, a movie adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in 1978 (along with resident Stockard Channing as Rizzo), two Broadway revivals and countless professional, community and high-school productions, it’s been sanitized and revised.

Although the stage show isn’t a carbon copy of the hugely successful film, familiar songs will be sung to the accompaniment of a six-piece band. In fact, MNM paid for permission to include tunes written for the movie. And you can expect a hit parade of energetic 1950s dance moves.

“You can’t dispel the movie,” director Bruce Linser said. “It’s what everybody knows.”

But in addition to fulfilling audience's expectations he focused on the characters and their relationships.

He spoke to his largely millennial cast about considering people in their own lives who resembled the characters.

“We all knew the bully, the jock and the goody two shoes,” he said. “We’re finding a place where we can work so they don’t become stereotypes but people we can relate to. I think people will be surprised by how much heart there is in the story.”

The cast also benefited from the advice of Barry Tarallo, who played Doody in the Broadway production for four years in the 1970s. He’s the father of Emily Tarallo, who plays Cha-Cha and choreographed MNM’s production. She’s been waiting a long time to perform in "Grease."

“I grew up hearing Dad’s stories about his time on Broadway,” she said.

Her father talked to the cast about the style of the show and keeping the characters real. He also coached his daughter in dances such as the Hand Jive, which figures in a dance contest in the show.

“The show revolves around dance,” Emily Tarallo said. “It’s pretty much in every song. The movement and dance in "Grease" tell the story and keep the show flowing.”

Linser added, “it’s how these kids express themselves and relate to each other. But we can’t look like a chorus line. We have to look like a group of friends who are dancing in high school.”

To help the cast get into their characters and the period, Linser showed them pictures of the products and celebrities mentioned in the show, screened clips of movies from the period, such as "Beach Blanket Bingo" and "Rebel Without a Cause," and played music by 1950s artists such as Little Richard, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley.

He also schooled them in ditching what he describes as their “millennial slouch.”

“For this time period in musical theater everything is lifted,” he said. “Even the cool guys have a lift to their chests.”

If all goes according to plan, audience members will leave the theater with a lift to their spirits as well.

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Source : https://www.palmbeachdailynews.com/news/20181116/mnm-theatre-co-closes-season-with-musical-favorite-grease

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