Back at Rydell High

Solano Youth Theatre gets slick with Grease

Fairfield Daily Republic ©

Behind the black door of Harbor Theatre, there is a room filled with 83 energetic kids who must learn the lines, dances and songs to one of the most legendary and upbeat shows ever produced. And musical director Vivian McLaughlin still enjoys her job.

Its really no surprise that McLaughlin relishes her role in Solano Youth Theatres production of 'Grease,' making its appearance at the Solano College Theatre today and Saturday, June 1-3 and June 8-10.

Her rŽsumŽ embodies an array of interactions with children of all ages, including co-host of Disney channels 'Out-of-the-Box,' theater department head at Justin-Sienna High School and more recently, educator of 'Mickey, Minnie and Me' classes held at Missouri Street Theatre.

'I definitely feel that Im affecting several more lives in a very positive way,' she admitted. 'And I love the group Im working with, Im really proud of the kids.'

McLaughlin is one of three directors taking on separate casts that encompass Suisun/Fairfield, Vacaville and Benicia/Vallejo and shes treasuring each moment, specifically those little rehearsal times that happen three times a week for three hours each.

'The process is pretty rigorous for the kids because we really put them to work from the moment they get here to when they leave,' she said of her Suisun cast. 'And yes, it can be crazy at times but I find that because Im teaching music it keeps them busy for the most part. Theyre attentive because youre engaging them.'

'Grease,' one of the longest-running Broadway shows in history, proved to be one of the highest-grossing movie musicals with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John at the helm of the cast.

The musical is based on the subcultures of the 1950s high schools in America, where working-class greasers with slicked-back hair became popular. It takes place at Rydell High, a fictitious school in Chicago and deals with teenage social issues.

But fret not, McLaughlin said. Audience members will not see a thrusting pelvic or the back seat of a 57 Chevy. This is an edited version of 'Grease.'

'The show is very different from the movie. There are songs not in the movie that are in the show,' McLaughlin said. 'You cant get away from some of the inherent innuendoes, but I dont think kids are looking at that. Theyre looking at the music.'

Which means goodbye to 'Greased Lightening' and 'There Are Worse Things I Can Do' and enter songs that make kids want to dance.

'Thats what theyre there for and they love the dancing,' she said. 'You can see it on their faces. Its just the big smiles that come from them because theyre having fun.'

Robin Stanton, program director at SYT who joined the theater nine months ago, is pleased the program selected 'Grease' as their season finale for the 2005-2006 season.

'Its completely infectious. It has the most marvelous, innocent rock beat as well as this wonderful plot about first love and peer pressure,' said Stanton, who is a professional director from the Chicago area. 'Its a combination that every young American adolescent relates to and every adult went through.'