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Romance, rebels and hot rods

For Centre Stage's upcoming production of the musical Grease, director James Packman has returned to the original script.

Grease was adapted in 1978 as a feature film in which some plot elements, characters, and songs were removed and new songs added.

Some plot elements alluded to in the musical were elaborated on for the movie and since then some of those revisions were incorporated into revivals of the musical.

Not in the Packman-directed show though.

“Basically it is the same story but the play and the movie are very different. The play is more hard-hitting and has more depth to it.”

Named after the 1950s United States working-class youth sub-culture known as greasers, the musical is set in 1959 at fictional Rydell High School and follows 10 working-class teenagers as they navigate the complexities of peer pressure, politics, personal core values, and love, Wikipedia tells us.

“The show mentions social issues such as teenage pregnancy, peer pressure and gang violence. Its themes include love, friendship, teenage rebellion, sexual exploration during adolescence, and, to some extent, class consciousness and class conflict.”

The show also features song and dance numbers such as Greased Lightnin', We Go Together, and Mooning, that recall the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation.

Grease first hit the boards in 1971, in the original Kingston Mines nightclub in Chicago. This year marks the show's 50th anniversary.

“We are the first company in the world to stage Grease on its 50th birthday,” says Packman.

A seasoned actor, producer and director in the Gisborne theatre scene, Packman has taken on a cast of 29 for the show but he has some talented production hands as well.

Maree Young, who has been involved with Centre Stage for many years, is choreographer. Tahi Paenga is the show's musical director and will be part of the onstage band that has been put together for the show.

The cast includes Joshua Lobb as Danny. Although fairly new to the local theatre scene, Lobb has previous experience in theatre. New Zealand School of Music graduate Beatrix Carino plays Sandy.

“As soon as we start a rehearsal she's in character all the time,” says Packman.

“It's the same with Amanda Maclean who plays Rizzo. They are both really good character actors.”

In fact, Packman sees Rizzo as the main character in Grease. The sarcastic leader of the Pink Ladies, Rizzo smokes, drinks, has sex, and doesn't care what others think of her.

“The play is more around her story,” says Packman.

“Danny and Sandy are usually presented as the main characters but a lot of the play revolves around Rizzo's life.”

Grease will be staged at the War Memorial Theatre, June 18 – 25. Tickets are selling like gangbusters, says Packman, but are still available from i-SITE or ticketek.

TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL: It's 1959 and Rydell High School's senior class is in rare form in the Centre Stage production of the musical Grease. The Thunderbirds, played by, from left, Bjorn Ahman, Michael Seymour, Joshua Lobb, Simon Marino and Paul Hawaikirangi, are stealing hub-caps and acting tough. Picture supplied
TOO COOL FOR SCHOOL: It's 1959 and Rydell High School's senior class is in rare form in the Centre Stage production of the musical Grease. The Pink Ladies, played by, from left, Danielle Siata, Tirzah Rolfe, Danielle Hegarty, Beatrix Carino, and Amanda Mclean, snap gum and chain-smoke. Picture supplied