Teenage cast to perform `Grease'

The Talent Machine aims to add authenticity to the musical with the use of young actors



With a cast of teenagers who actually look like they could have attended Rydell High, the Talent Machine opens its production of the musical Grease tonight at St. John's College Key Auditorium in Annapolis.

A frequent complaint heard at many performances of the musical standby is that 20- and 30-something actors don't seem believable as 1950s high school students.

That won't be the case with the Talent Machine, formed about 20 years ago by Bobbi Smith to help young people develop their dancing and singing talents and to give them a performance vehicle.

This summer it presented a super-charged version of 42nd Street that featured the company's younger members, ages 5 to 14.

As is the custom, the older group of performers, ages 13 to 18, does the summer's second show, and it has all the troupe's hallmarks: high-voltage energy, camaraderie and professionalism.

"We usually pick musicals to showcase the older kids who will be going away to college," said Smith's daughter, Lea Capps, who carries on the Talent Machine tradition for her late mother.

She liked director Dewey Oriente's choice of the upbeat Grease after recent dramas such as Children of Eden and Pippin.

And, she said, the cast of 14 - small for the Talent Machine - will allow everyone to shine.

With its run on Broadway from 1972 to 1980 and the enduring appeal of the 1978 blockbuster movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John that recently spawned a 25th anniversary TV special, Grease is firmly embedded in pop culture. It's been called "critic-proof." It's nostalgic, silly fun.

Songs include "Summer Nights," "We Go Together," "Greased Lightnin'," "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "There Are Worse Things I Could Do."

Good girl Sandy Dumbrowski and greaser Danny Zuko fell in love over the summer and discover in the fall that they are at the same high school.

Sandy tries to fit in with the Pink Ladies, eventually undergoing a black leather fashion transformation. As a member of the Burger Palace Boys, Danny is cool toward Sandy when his friends are around.

Other characters include tough-talking Pink Ladies ringleader Rizzo, who ridicules Sandy; Frenchy, an aspiring beautician who fails to make the grade in beauty school; teacher Miss Lynch; and greasers Kenickie, Sonny and Doody, who keep their distance from the geek Eugene.

The Talent Machine's cast will feature Ryan Connor as Danny and Haley Dean as Sandy with Beth Lepley, Hana Thornhill, Rikki Gimelstob and Taylor Rector as Pink Ladies.

Thomas Kenney, Ryan Mills, David Grindrod and Carol Wilson play Burger Palace boys. Other Rydell High classmates are Samantha Thornhill, Zach Karr, Christine Martini and Robbie Dinsmore.

Performances at St. John's Key Auditorium will be at 7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow, at 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday and at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 10 to 12 with a closing performance at 2 p.m. Aug. 13. Tickets cost $12 for regular admission and $10 for children age 7 and younger and for groups of 20 or more. They can be purchased at www. talentmachine.com or reserved by calling 410-956-0512.

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