“Grease” is the Word: Theatre Tuscaloosa Goes Back to Rydell High School Featured

(L to R): Aislinn Cain, Zion Lewis, Callie Walker, Teaira Smith, and Emily Keller, rehearsing choreography for Grease, which runs July 12-21 in the Bean-Brown Theatre. (L to R): Aislinn Cain, Zion Lewis, Callie Walker, Teaira Smith, and Emily Keller, rehearsing choreography for Grease, which runs July 12-21 in the Bean-Brown Theatre. K. Gillock

Theatre Tuscaloosa will bring fun and energy to your “Summer Nights” with their July production of Grease 

“The stage version of Grease came out in the early 70s,” said Tina Turley, executive producer for Theatre Tuscaloosa. “It was a raucous and rebellious answer to the squeaky clean 50s portrayal of teenagers. The script has morphed over the years to lean towards the movie. The movie is a cult classic, and people will not be disappointed when they see our production.” 

The 1978 movie of the same name, developed from the stage production, portrayed a milder toned-down version of the original storyline, including additional songs written specifically for the film version. “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Sandy,” and “Grease” are songs originally written for the film adaptation. Theatre Tuscaloosa has made it a point to acquire the rights for all three.  

“We want our audience to be involved and sing along to all these fun tunes,” Turley said. 

Later revivals of the stage production, including Theatre Tuscaloosa’s, follow the film-version more closely, while still addressing the original themes of love, friendship, peer pressure, and personal core values.  

“Everyone knows a Danny, or a Rizzo, or a Sandy, or a Kenickie,” said Nolan McKinney, a rising sophomore at UA playing Danny Zuko. “I want to show the audience that this show can really connect with anyone and can take anyone away from whatever trouble they may be having in real life. I always try to help find an escape for the audience members, so they can enjoy it and live this story with us.” 

Opposite McKinney will be 2018 Miss Alabama Callie Walker playing Sandy. 

Grease is such an iconic film and stage production,” said Walker. “Just being given the opportunity to be a part of it is an honor!” 

Director Stephen Tyler Davis leads a rehearsal of Theatre Tuscaloosa’s upcoming production of Grease.

This production also welcomes Stephen Tyler Davis back to Tuscaloosa. After earning his bachelor’s degree from UA, Davis went on to earn an MFA in theatre, and work for the New York Musical Theatre Festival. This summer, he’s lending his experience to the cast as the director of Grease. 

“He’s so much fun to work with,” said McKinney. “The way he directs is so perfect, because he guides you in a certain direction, but he lets you take your own spin on it, which is what you want in every director, but it’s harder to find.” 

In addition to the familiar characters and catchy music, audiences can get ready to experience high-energy dance numbers throughout the performance.  

“I consider myself a strong actor/singer, not the strongest dancer,” said McKinney. “I really appreciate Lindsay Troha, our choreographer. She’s fantastic because the way she choreographs is so well-done. You don’t have to be an incredible dancer, and I think it really keeps the energy of the show so alive and high and it just makes it really enjoyable for everybody.” 

It takes a special cast to put on such an iconic story so familiar to most audiences. The production team feel they have just the right performers to present this cult classic. 

“We decided to do Grease now because there were so many talented young people to do the show,” said Turley. “I’m excited to see so many young people doing theatre, and those of us older ‘young’ people will have a ball watching it!” 

“This casting was perfect for the show,” McKinney said. “I’m excited for everyone to see all the hard work we’re putting into it.” 

The production of Grease runs July 12-21 in the Bean-Brown Theatre on the Martin Campus of Shelton State Community College. Purchase tickets, or get more information, by calling the ticket office at (205) 391-2277 or visiting theatretusc.com. 

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.