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Slick ‘Grease’ is premiere production at Black Box Theatre

The “Burger Palace Boys” practice their moves at a dress rehearsal.
The “Burger Palace Boys” practice their moves at a dress rehearsal. Photo provided

The Theatre in the Park moves indoors to present the popular musical “Grease” as the premiere production in the new Black Box Theatre in the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center.

“Grease” plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, the night before Saturday’s grand opening of the Center, located in the former King Louie building in Overland Park. “Grease” runs again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday.

“Grease” is truly everyone’s favorite rock and roll musical,” said Tim Bair, producing artistic director of The Theatre in the Park.

“We’ve received a great response from all ages,” said Bair, the show’s director. “Most folks may remember ‘Grease’ from the movie, but people are in for a treat with the live show.”

Set in l959, “Grease” follows students at Rydell High School as they contend with teenage romance, peer pressure and rebellion in the rock ’n’ roll era. The show revolves around the on again, off again romance of Danny Zuko, leader of the Burger Palace Boys, portrayed by Zane Champie, and Sandy Dumbrowski, a member of the Pink Ladies, played by Genevieve Austin.

“Danny has a cool, tough guy facade but really has a good heart,” said Champie, 18, a Blue Valley West graduate. “He’s a fun character to play. It’s a bit of a challenge to portray a character so many people have seen in the movies and have an expectation of how he should be played.”

“The Burger Palace Boys hang out with the Pink Ladies when they aren’t grabbing a student’s lunch or stealing hubcaps,” Champie added with a laugh. “We’re pretty close.”

Champie played one of the brothers in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” last summer at The Theatre in the Park. He will attend Texas Christian University in Fort Worth this fall and major in musical theater.

Genevieve Austin, who graduated this spring at Blue Valley, said she can relate to Sandy.

“I like it that she’s a little different than the other Pink Ladies, more of a goody-goody type a little like me. Sandy tries to be like them because that’s what Danny wants.”

Austin, 18, portrayed Connie in “A Chorus Line” last year and was in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’ in 2014 at The Theatre in the Park. She plans to attend the University of Kansas this fall but hasn’t decided on a major.

Meredith Hollan, of Olathe, portrays Betty Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies.

“Rizzo can be a little snarky, and the girls do what she says. She usually keeps her thoughts to herself and doesn’t confide in the other girls,” Hollan said.

“I love the show. It’s high energy all the way and the music is great. It reminds you of what rock and roll was like in the ‘50s. It’s a blast.”

Hollan, 21, is a junior at Wichita State University majoring in musical theater. She was in “Shrek” and “Damn Yankees” at The Theatre in the Park.

One night when the Burger Palace Boys were busy stealing hubcaps Marty, played by Britt Bowman, of Kansas City, had a pajama party for the Pink Ladies where they experimented with cigarettes, wine, pierced ears…and long conversations about boys. Marty talked at length about her long-distance courtship with a Marine.

“Marty and I couldn’t be more opposite, so it was a little difficult for me to portray her,” said Bowman, 26, a science teacher in the North Kansas City School District who has a master’s degree in education from Truman State University. “But she’s fun. She’s self-absorbed but she’s beginning to realize how important it is to have friends.”

Kenickie, portrayed by Spencer Gochis, is the only one of the Burger Palace Boys, who has a “new” used car he named “Greased Lighting.” The car enhances his prestige in the gang.

“We’re the school’s tough guys. So we mix well with the Pink Ladies. We don’t follow the rules. Rules aren’t for us,”said Gochis, a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Gochis has been in “Guys and Dolls” and “9 to 5” at The Theatre in the Park. He is majoring in theater performance at the University of Kansas.

Lucas Lowry, 19, plays Doody, the youngest member of the gang. He plays the guitar.

“That helps my popularity especially with the Pink Ladies,” Lowry said. “We’re the greasers, the Ryder High tough guys who don’t take anything from anybody.”

Lowry, who lives in Lenexa, was in “Cabaret” at The Theatre in the Park last year. He is a graduate of Shawnee Mission West and will attend Wichita State University in the fall to major in musical theater.

If you go

What: “Grease,” rated R, is recommended for mature audiences over 17

Where: 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park

When: Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The play continues June 15, 16, 17, 22, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and June 17, 18, 24 and 25 at 2 p.m.

Admission: $20 adults, $18 for seniors and $15 for youths.

Reservations and information: All seats are reserved and may be purchased online at www.theatreinthepark.org or at the theater box office. For more information call 913-826-2787.

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