Summer musical full of fun-filled, carefree vibes but huge undertaking for actors 

IF YOU GO 

“Grease” will go up Friday-Sunday, July 7-9 and 14-16 at West T. Hill Community Theatre, 117 Larrimore Lane, Danville. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: westthill.com or (859) 319-0205.

‘Grease’ is the word

Director Beth Marlowe says it’s a no-brainer: “Grease” takes everyone back to a more relaxed, fun-loving and carefree time. “There is something about this period in our history that was so innocent and fun and most people connect to it,” she says. 

However, casting this endeavor was anything but relaxing. “Ha! It was crazy. We had over 70 people audition …” Marlowe says, who had first planned on pinning characters on older actors. In the movie, Rizzo was played by Stockard Channing, who was 33 at the time. 

“It didn’t end up as I had envisioned …” Marlowe says, but admits: It’s actually much better. 

“Most of the cast is in their 20s … and I can’t say that I am truly disappointed because I love them.”

Marlowe, who’s gotten into the routine of casting with a panel instead of solo, credits her partner in theater crime, Anita Baskin, as being a “trusty” stage-manager, but says she’s more like a co-director. Dylan Godbey serves as music director, Paula Meckes choreographs, and self-appointed Maggie Jenkins, is not only daughter but assistant to the director, and all helped her cast. 

“I’ve worked with so many people over the years in this community that, at times, it is an accountability that helps me cast what is best for the show instead of who I enjoy working with the most — if that makes sense,” she says.   

Marlowe stops herself from listing any favorites in the cast, but mostly, she says, because she wants audiences to be surprised. “I will say this — there are many favorites to choose from.” 

Out of those are a few first-timers. Kelsey Grievson, a teacher at Kentucky School for the Deaf, is taking the stage for the first time ever. “She’s wonderful,” Marlowe says. “It’s been really fun watching her enjoy the process. We have a few new faces to West T. Hill who audience members are going to love watching …” 

Veterans returning to the stage include Michael Ross, Kristie Martin, Godbey and Jasmine Hones, all actors who have taken a long hiatus from the WTH stage, Marlowe says. 

Marlowe’s other daughter, Sarabeth Marlowe, is back on stage for this production — who hasn’t been on the WTH stage since going to college. This will be her last summer in Danville before moving to Florida for a job at Disney, so the director is especially happy to have her back. Sarabeth Marlowe and Jenkins haven’t acted together for about 10 years, Marlowe says. 

But it’s not all Disney and rainbows. 

Directing a musical is “sooooo much harder” than directing a comedy or drama, Marlowe says. 

“There is just so much more to deal with,” she says, offering that the dancing, the music, the everything must all be bigger and better. “Especially with a show like Grease, you want to make sure it feels full and rich. Everyone knows these songs and characters. You just feel this responsibility to not let the fans of Grease down.” 

As far as how she and the cast hope the audience walks away feeling, it’s pretty simple for them. 

“We just hope they are smiling, reliving a memory or two they had growing up or humming a tune as they walk away.” 

Marlowe says she does want to warn serious fans of “Grease,” because it’s not the same as the musical — in fact, the stage production is very different. 

“I was happy that West T. Hill was willing to pay a bit extra for us to use a few songs from the movie. There are a few additional song and some familiar songs in different places, but overall  the sheer fun and carefree feeling will be there — for everyone.” 

Cast and crew 

The cast of Grease also includes: Sherri Locke, Emma Steberl, Aidan Johns, Isaac Reeder, Luke Sosby, Delanie Crace, Havannah Martin, Jasmine Jones, Ethan Baker, Allen Martin, Brian Lucas, Brittany Voll, Corbyn Denson, Megan Henry, Shay Locke, Emma Merryman, Grayson Fowlkes, Jacob Johns and Tanner Southerland. Other crew members include David Mullins, who built the set; Kolton Winfield, who designed the set; and Natalie Grubbs, Faith Hope (another newcomer to WTH) and Sarah Brown working backstage.