The spacious stage at Sinagua Middle School looks like pages from a yearbook have come alive, as lines of young actors dance vigorously across the floor and belt out songs Tuesday night during a dress rehearsal.

This is the award-winning musical "Grease," and the senior class of 1959 at Rydell High School, in a working-class neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago, is giving its all to evoke the look and sound of the era of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s.


An eight-year run on Broadway and two subsequent revivals, along with innumerable school and community productions, place "Grease" among the world's most popular musicals.

The reasons the show is so popular will become abundantly clear in the six-show run of "Grease," a production of Flagstaff Light Opera Company, which has its opening night on Friday in the SMS auditorium.

The cast of 19 features duck-tailed, hot-rodding "Burger Palace Boys" and their gum-snapping, hip-shaking "Pink Ladies" in bobby sox and pedal pushers.

"Rehearsals are going incredibly well; I'm excited," says Douglas Riddle, who, along with Chase Coleman, handles musical direction of the show. "It's a really good cast, and we've accomplished our goal of attracting a younger group of actors."

The original book, music and lyrics are by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey.

Head "greaser" Danny Zuko and new (good) girl Sandy Dumbrowski try to relive the high romance of their "Summer Nights," as the rest of the gang sings and dances its way through such songs as "Greased Lightnin'," "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "Alone at the Drive-in Movie," "Freddy My Love," "Magic Changes" and other songs that recall the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation.

"I like this music," says Coleman, a Flagstaff musician who once played keyboard for the Platters. "It's fun to put together, and it's fun to do, and everybody likes it."

He says the experience of playing with the Platters has been very useful for doing this musical.


The FLOC show is a major team effort, and in addition to Riddle and Coleman, the production crew includes Dani Knight, director; Kirstin Nelson, choreographer; Josh Savrin, stage manager; and Brian McDonald, assistant stage manager. Set construction is by Randy Beaumont.

"The show has been fun to work on," says Knight, who has directed before, but never a musical. "We have a really strong production team. It's made directing my first show a very pleasant experience. The cast has gone above and beyond with their dancing and singing. We have a lot of local talent."

Riddle was the director of choirs for more than 20 years at Coconino High School and is president of the FLOC board of directors.

"We chose the show due to its popularity and accessibility," he explains "Grease is a show that to my knowledge has never been done in Flagstaff."

The cast includes the following players: Danny, played by Devon Battilega; Emma Hoover, as Sandy; Alix Johnson, as Frenchy; Brian Klimowski, as Kenickie; Aimee Lucas-Bollinger, as Betty Rizzo; Randon Macias, as Roger; Nicole Thurston, as Jan; Tim McCabe, as Doody; Elyshia Armstead, as Marty; Zach Mabes, as Sonny; Chloe Howe, as Cha-Cha; Will McDonald, as Johnny Casino; Bear Vash, as Teen Angel; Jessica Lanphear, as Patty; Bear Vash, as Vince Fontaine; Kevin Penner, as Eugene Florczykr, and Amanda McDonald, as Miss Lynch.

Chorus members are Jordan Lanphear, Samantha Swensen, Lana Dittbenner and Ellie Williams.


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Most of the cast is younger than 30.

"It's toward a young volunteer base, because that's what we've had coming for a year and a half," says Nelson, a FLOC choreographer for about seven years. "Also, as opposed to most of our FLOC shows, this show is dance-intensive."

Will McDonald, who plays the band leader Johnny Casino, knows a thing or two about intense dancing.

"I do a lot of lindy hop and swing in the community," says McDonald, who is well-known to folks for his work with Theatrikos.

"He helped with all the swing stuff -- the technical aspects of throwing all the girls around," Nelson explains.

Summer shows in the future are going to be more youth-oriented.

"In our season, we've selected shows where our entire volunteer base will have a chance to participate," she adds.

Flagstaff Light Opera Company was founded in the spring of 1995 with a mission to develop community-based musical theater and light-opera productions in northern Arizona.

Light opera is defined as a short opera, which is usually of a light and amusing character, perhaps best personified in the lively works of Gilbert and Sullivan, the Victorian-era theatrical partnership of librettist W.S. Gilbert (1836-1911) and composer Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900).

Through musical theatrical shows and workshops, FLOC seeks to educate both participants and audiences about all aspects of music, acting, dance, orchestra and technical theater.

Betsey Bruner can be reached at bbruner@azdailysun.com or 556-2255.


WHAT: Grease, the musical, presented by Flagstaff Light Opera Company. Direction, Dani Knight; choreography, Kirstin Nelson; musical direction, Douglas Riddle and Chase Coleman

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, and Friday, July 19, and Saturday July 20, at 7:30 p.m.; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 14; and 6 p.m. Sunday, July 21

WHERE: Sinagua Middle School Auditorium, 3950 E. Butler Ave.

TICKETS: Adults, $20; students, $15; 12 and under, $10. Tickets available at the door payable by cash, check, or by credit card. Also, visit http://www.flagstaff365.com/event/detail/441787076/Grease

INFO: For more information about FLOC, call 221-0943

or visit www.thefloc.org.

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