Musical “Grease” to rock E. Turner Stump Theatre

Brooke Bower

TV2 Story

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The set designers were busily painting a ‘50s scene, the actors were stretching in preparation and the lighting crew was looking for battery chargers before the “Grease” rehearsal on Tuesday night.

They have been preparing since November and now they are ready to open the curtain of “Grease” Friday at 8 p.m. in E. Turner Stump Theatre. “Grease” runs Feb. 18-27. Guest director and Kent State alumnus Michael McIntosh wants to shed a new light on the classic ‘50s love story.

“It’s really exciting, and a fun rock ‘n’ roll concert,” McIntosh said. “It’s a reboot of the show since it’s bigger, louder and raunchier.”

McIntosh has performed in “Grease” and directed the show many times. Connie Hecker, assistant set designer and theatre studies graduate student, said it has been interesting working with a university budget and trying to maintain McIntosh’s professional standards.

““We’re all having a lot of fun letting out our inner rock star,” said Melissa Cotton, senior musical theatre major, who plays Sandy.”

“He’s directed it before, and he has a really unique take on the whole experience,” said Melissa Cotton, senior theatre studies major, who plays Sandy. “Instead of trying to sell it like a musical or a play he’s trying to sell it as a rock concert. We’re all having a lot of fun letting out our inner rock star.”

Cotton said there is a misconception that Sandy is “a goody-goody and changes herself for a guy.” She added that Sandy is hardcore, and everyone can relate to having an inner personality they’re trying to let out.

Jason Leupold, senior theatre studies major, said it has been an interesting process trying to find his character, Danny.

“When he is with his fellow T-Birds he is a legend, the coolest guy around town, but when he is around Sandy his more sensitive side comes out,” Leupold said. “It’s been interesting to get the two sides and play each up.”

He has been putting in six nights a week of rehearsals after returning from winter break. Before the break, they rehearsed a few times to learn the music and were expected to learn their lines over the break.

“I started preparing for ‘Grease’ by doing a lot of research on the fashion and the music we listen to,” Cotton said. “I wanted to see what it was like to be a teenager then.”

Hecker said her preparation process started last semester with research on the time period.

Grease” Information:

Feb. 18, 19 and 22-26 will be at 8 p.m. and Feb. 20 and 27 at 2 p.m. in the E. Turner Stump Theatre.

Tickets are $8 for students, $12 for seniors and $16 for adults. .

“We had the designs all made in November,” said set designer Raynette H. Smith from behind a desk covered in a variety of art supplies. “We had a little building done before Christmas break, and we’ve been going full blast since we’ve been back.”

Smith and Hecker joked with each other about the hours they’ve spent working on the set of “Grease.” Hecker said she’s been putting in six to seven days a week in the scene shop.

“We hope that every single backdrop adds to the show or else it is a waste of our time,” Hecker said while painting a large sign. “It isn’t just stuff to look at that’s pretty. It has a use and a purpose to help further the show.”

McIntosh said the set will feature large moving pieces such as a set of bleachers and a burger bar. Along with the ‘50s props, the show is using 250 costumes and a rented package of rock ‘n’ roll flashing lights. He said they have a guest choreographer from New York, Felicity Stiverson. Jonathan Swoboda, an assistant professor and featured keyboard artist for Mannheim Steamroller, is the music director for the eight-piece band.

“I started talking to the department about the show two years ago,” McIntosh said. “It has been a long process, but now we have a first-class team working on this.”

Cotton said playing Sandy is going to be a memorable experience.

“It’s a really fun way to end my time here at Kent,” she said. ‘It’s been a fun experience working with a large cast and a guest director. I’ve been trying to embrace it while it lasts. I’m going into a career where I probably won’t get a role like this for a long time, so I’m trying to treasure it.”

Contact Brooke Bower at [email protected].