YORKTOWN, N.Y. – When it comes to crowd-pleasing musicals, “Grease” is the one that everybody wants to see. On Broadway, it’s one of the longest-running shows in theater annals; in Hollywood, it’s one of the highest-grossing musicals at the box office; in music, it’s one of the best-selling albums ever; and at Yorktown Stage, where it has played to some 5,000 people in recent years, it’s one of the surefire seat-fillers. So order your tickets fast!
Yorktown Stage, with more than 500 seats and recently updated sound and lighting systems, is known for the high quality of all its productions, which is why it just earned the prestigious regional honor of being named “Best Local Theatre” by the readers of Westchester Magazine.
It’s no secret why “Grease” keeps coming back for our viewing and listening pleasure. It’s because audiences keep coming back to see the feel-good, funny story of the “greaser” youth culture that remains a dominant theme—and meme—of 1950s America.
What makes “Grease” timeless is its heart, said Yorktown Stage artistic director August Abatecola (Thornwood), who directed the show: “I asked the cast to embrace the oddity of their characters, who are not the popular kids in school, like jocks or cheerleaders,” he said. “Each has a quirk that makes them different, but they accept that about each other. That’s why audiences fall in love with them, no matter how many times they’ve seen the show or movie. You can find a little bit of yourself in their larger-than-life personalities.”
The musical manages to be light-hearted while staying true to the edgy behavior and teen angst that defined those times. It features a tuneful score that evokes the sounds of early rock and roll. The story is set in 1959 at fictional Rydell High School (an homage to real-life 1950s pop vocalist Bobby Rydell). We follow the escapades and coming-of-age experiences of a tight-knit clan of 10 working-class teenagers, led by Danny Zuko (Michael Civitello), Sandy Dumbrowski (Meaghan Elliot), Kenickie (Kevin Custi) and Rizzo (Sarah Boyle).
The show does not flinch from dealing with social issues such that range from teenage pregnancy, peer pressure and gang violence to the bonds of friendship, rebellion, and class conflict.
In the end, after some hard lessons learned, it works out for the best for all concerned, adding up to good, old-fashioned fun for the audience, and for the actors.
“We are embracing every bit of camp, fun and energy in the show,” said Abatecola, a seasoned performer himself who also teaches musical theater. “I like to describe it as a Vegas cruise ship production.” He said the outsize scenery is reminiscent of the neon-emblazoned Vegas strip.
Among the very familiar songs that have charmed generations of parents and children are “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightning,” and “We Go Together.” The hit song most closely associated with “Grease” wasn’t in the original score. “You’re the One That I Want” was added for the 1978 film version, but now is a staple of “Grease” on stage, and will be performed in this production.
One of the hallmarks of every Yorktown Stage Broadway-style production is its use of the area’s most talented musicians, under the baton of music director Ricky Romano (Nyack). For “Grease,” a seven-piece band will be elevated seven feet above the stage in full view of the audience, creating what Abatecola called “a strong concert feel.”
He adds that the choreography, by Carrie Silvernail (Pleasantville), is marked by “fast-paced movement and iconic steps perfectly executed by this cast of professionals. It will be the ‘Grease’ that we’ve all come to know and love, but of course, in typical Yorktown Stage fashion, there are a few surprises to keep the production fresh!”
In addition to the four principal actors mentioned above, “Grease” also features local favorites and Yorktown Stage regulars Joey Sanzaro (Pleasantville) as Doody (“Beauty & The Beast”, “Shrek” and “All Shook Up”) and Matthew Harmon (Cortlandt) as Vince Fontaine and Teen Angel (“Beauty and the Beast”). Jessica Bulzacchelli (Carmel) appears as Frenchie.
Other cast members from northern Westchester include Yorktowners Sophia D’Ambrozio, Abby Menocal, Samantha Miley, Amanda Montgomery, Lily Oliviero, and Nicolas Vanden Bergh; Charlotte Athanasidy, Matthew Harmon, and Ryan Moore of Cortlandt Manor; Elias Gonzalez of Peekskill; Greg Carey of Montrose; Aidan Mahoney of Katonah; and Carina Florio of Pleasantville.
Grease is produced by Barry Liebman (Croton-on-Hudson), president and producing director of Yorktown Stage; stage management by Casey Brehm (Croton); lighting design by Andrew Gmoser (Yorktown), and sound design by Scott Tunkel (Millbrook).
“Grease” performances are 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, July 29, and Aug. 5, and 1 p.m. Sundays, July 30, and Aug. 6.
Ticket Prices: Children (11 and under) $19; seniors (62 and over) and students (under 22) $21; Adults $26. Group discounts are available. Tickets may be purchased at yorktownstage.org or by calling the box office 914-962-0606.