Spring play 'Grease' to rock SUNY Oswego stage

SUNY Oswego’s theatre department will present “Grease,” the exuberant tribute to 1950s teen passions, in an eight-performance, three-weekend production.

The play will preview at 8 p.m. March 31, then run at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 1-2; Saturday, April 9 and Friday and Saturday, April 15-16, with 2 p.m. matinees on Sunday, April 10 and 17. All shows will take place in Waterman Theatre of Tyler Hall.

Founding Dean Fritz Messere.“Everyone just loves ‘Grease,’” said Jonel Langenfeld-Rial, the play’s director and an assistant professor in the theatre department. “I’ve directed it twice and appeared in it twice in my career, and it never seems to grow old.”

“Grease,” the 1971 musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, ended its then-record Broadway run of 3,388 performances more than 30 years ago. But the story of Sandy Dumbrowski, Danny Zuko, the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies—set amid the grease-laden hair, cars and food of 1959—has endured in countless stagings and in reruns of the 1978 hit film starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

Yet how many productions of “Grease” have had people of color as Sandy and Danny? Students Amber Hammonds, an African-American, and Jamine Coley, who is African-American, Trinidadian and Polish, will take the female and male romantic leads in SUNY Oswego’s staging.

“They are very talented,” said Langenfeld-Rial, whose own work on stage in Asia and elsewhere honed her global approach. “I believe in color-blind casting, where possible. No, it’s not realistic casting, given how people of color were treated back in the ‘50s, but this is a fantasy. It’s not so much about politics.”

Campuswide auditions

Casting proved very difficult, as more than 100 students from all over campus appeared for auditions. “It was very exciting to see this amount of talent at Oswego,” Langenfeld-Rial said. “It really challenged a lot of our regulars (theatre majors). They’re all excited and very supportive of how the casting came out.”

Among the top roles, Alexandra Renzetti will appear as Rizzo, Anatasha Tavera as Frenchy, Nick Pike as Kenickie, Erik Shuler as Doody and Jessica Quindlen as Patty.

The classic score including “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightning,” “Beauty School Dropout” and “Born to Hand Jive” will come to life with the assistance of music director Rebecca Horning, adjunct instructor in the music department.

The choreography that dances from the drive-in to the diner to the high school hop comes courtesy of Kelly Magner-Thomas of Miss Kelly’s Dance Company.

“She is a wonderful choreographer,” Langenfeld-Rial said. “I’m also a dancer/choreographer, but I cannot do all the choreography, as well as all the directing. This is some of the most challenging choreography we’ve had in a long time. There’s going to be some HOT dancing in this show.”

Team effort

Other staff members include scenic and lighting designer Tim Baumgartner, costume designer Kitty Macey, sound designer Steve Shull, technical director Sean Culligan and costume shop supervisor Judy McCabe.

Other student acting credits include Sarah Sterling as Ms. Lynch, Daniel Distasio as Eugene, Katie Reid as Jan, Olivia Zeis as Marty, Rob Beshures as Roger, Dylan Duffy as Sonny, Samuel Austin as Vince Fontain, Colin Holmes as Johnny Casino, Jackie Mienkiewicz as Cha Cha and Scott Silver as Teen Angel.

Student crew credits include assistant director Alagia Conwell-Felix, assistant to the director Brien Bianchi, dramaturg Katie Reid and assistant musical director/conductor Wojciech Milewski. Many other students assist in the cast and crew.

Tickets for “Grease” are available at all SUNY Oswego box office outlets, online at http://tickets.oswego.edu and by phone at 315-312-2141. All tickets for the March 31 preview are $5. Tickets are $15 ($12 for SUNY Oswego staff, non-SUNY Oswego students and for seniors ages 60 and over; $7 for SUNY Oswego students) for the run.

Parking is free on evenings and weekends for those attending this event. For persons with disabilities needing assistance, call the Tyler Box Office in advance at 315-312-2141.

PHOTO CAPTION:  “Grease” is the word—SUNY Oswego student actors Amber Hammonds, right, and Jamine Coley, second from right, starring as Sandy Dumbrowski and Danny Zuko, join Jessica Quindlen as Patty and Erik Shuler as Doody in SUNY Oswego’s spring theatre production of “Grease.” (Note: correcting error in dates in the original caption) The musical will preview Thursday, March 31, and run Friday and Saturday, April 1-2, Saturday and Sunday, April 9-10, and Friday through Sunday, April 15-17, in Tyler Hall’s Waterman Theatre. In a setting evoking the play’s 1950s era, the actors gather in Mom and Pop’s Soda Shop and Eatery, 23 E. Utica St.

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(Posted: Mar 04, 2011)

Tags: theatre department, theatre and music departments, suny oswego, music department, kelly magner-thomas, jonel langenfeld-rial, jessica quindlen, jamine coley, grease, erik shuler