Grease is the word at Starlight Theatre now through Thursday, Sept. 14. The beloved musical that features 1950s’ high school romance and rock ‘n’ roll will cruise across the Starlight stage like Greased Lightnin’ for six performances, opening on Friday night, Sept. 8 and continuing through Sept. 14.
Rehearsals for Grease, Starlight’s only locally produced musical of the 2017 Broadway season, began Aug. 28 under the experienced tutelage of director Philip Wm. McKinley (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark), choreographer Paula Lynn and music director Anthony Edwards. The talented 45-person cast includes several professional actors from Kansas City as well as principals and ensemble cast members hailing from New York, Chicago and Las Vegas, a number of whom have Kansas City roots.
Since it debuted on Broadway in 1972, where it ran for eight years and 3,388 performances, Grease has morphed into an entertainment franchise. The original musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, which earned seven Tony® Award nominations and two Drama Desk Awards, has spawned a hit movie (1978), two Broadway revivals (1994 and 2007), a TV reality show “Grease: You’re the One That I Want” (2007), and, most recently, the Grease, Live! TV performance on FOX (2016).
At the heart of the musical’s story is the budding romance of bad boy Danny Zuko and virtuous new girl Sandy Dumbrowski. When the two wind up at the same high school in the fall, their summer love is put to the test by the familiar forces of peer pressure and close-knit cliques, personified by Danny’s gang of Greasers and Sandy’s soon-to-be-friends, the Pink Ladies. Through the halls of Rydell High to the Burger Palace, drive-in movie and pajama parties, Starlight audiences will ride along as Danny and Sandy navigate the trials of young love.
Taking on the lead roles in Grease are Timothy Michael Quinn as Danny and Heidi Webster as Sandy. Both are making their Starlight debuts. Originally from the Chicago area but now based in New York, Quinn previously performed as Danny in a production directed by West End director/choreographer Gary Lloyd. His other recent credits include Damn Yankees, Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Cuff Me: The 50 Shades of Grey Parody. Webster most recently starred in Steve Wynn’s Showstoppers in Las Vegas where she resides. She began her career singing with Holland America Cruise Lines and Tokyo Disneyland.
At the helm of Grease’s creative team, McKinley returns to Kansas City to direct his 11th musical at Starlight. With this show, he ties the directorial record of Jack Allison, who was a fixture at Starlight from the mid-1980s through the early ‘90s. McKinley’s most recent Starlight directing credits are Disney’s Mary Poppins (2015) and The Sound of Music (2014). He previously directed Grease at Starlight in 1999 and has helmed The Wizard of Oz three times at Starlight, most recently in 2007. McKinley brings strong Broadway credits to Starlight. He was charged with taking over as director of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark after Julie Taymor’s exit. Under his direction, the musical spectacular earned a box-office record of nearly $3 million in one week. He also directed The Boy From Oz starring Hugh Jackman, Thawk and the Off-Broadway hit Zombie Prom.
Lynn has choreographed alongside McKinley on several previous productions at Starlight, including The Wizard of Oz, Phantom and The Sound of Music. Edwards’ credits for music direction and conducting are expansive at Starlight and at theatres across Kansas City and regionally.
“With the speed at which we have to rehearse and stage our self-produced shows, we definitely want to bring in the ‘A Team’ of creatives,” said Rich Baker, Starlight President and CEO. “In the span of just 12 days, this highly talented gathering of creatives and performers will deliver a production of Grease that I believe will match up to anything audiences have seen on Broadway or from national tours. While it’s a big commitment of resources to self-produce musicals, we are thrilled to be able to deliver a top-quality show and spotlight a lot of homegrown talent on the Starlight stage!”
Performers in Grease who are either based in Kansas City or have roots in the community or nearby are:
- Don Denton (Kenickie) spent his high school years in Topeka, Kan., often performing at the Helen Hocker Theater.
- Cathy Barnett (Miss Lynch) previously performed at Starlight in The Producers (2010) and The Sound of Music (2014). She has appeared in shows at numerous Kansas City theatres and also portrays the Hallmark greeting card character “Maxine.”
- Steven Eubank (Eugene) made his theatre debut as a child in Big River at Starlight in 1993, under the direction of McKinley. He is the artistic director for Kansas City’s Egads! Theatre Company.
- Anthony J. Gasbarre, III (Sonny), now a New York City resident, grew up in Kansas City and was a member of Starlight’s education program, the Starlight STARS performance troupe, in 2010. He previously performed at Starlight in Xanadu and Cinderella in 2011.
- Eric Geil (Roger) earned his Equity card at Starlight when he performed in The Sound of Music in 2014. He is currently taking a brief leave of absence from the national tour of The Book of Mormon to return home to perform in Grease.
- Daxton Bloomquist (Ensemble) also earned his Equity card at Starlight when he performed in The Producers in 2010, immediately after graduating from Wichita State University. The El Dorado, Kan., native moved to New York and was cast in both the Broadway production and national tour of The Book of Mormon.
- Joel Chambers (Ensemble) returns home to Kansas City to perform in Grease.
- Gabbie Fried (Ensemble) was a member of the 2010 Starlight STARS and is appearing in her first Starlight show. She is now based in New York.
- Courtney Germany (Sheila’s Voice, Ensemble) was a 2006 recipient of Starlight’s Vincent Legacy Scholarship, has been a teaching artist and assistant for multiple Starlight education programs, has performed in the Starlight Annual Benefit Gala several times, and makes her professional theatre debut in Grease.
- Daria LeGrand (Ensemble), a Kansas City native, has previously performed at Starlight in Annie and The Wizard of Oz.
- Erik Sobbe (Scientist’s Voice, Ensemble), a Kansas City native, starred as Aladdin in Starlight’s Children’s Theatre production of Disney’s Aladdin in 2012.
The Blue Star Teen Ensemble in Grease is made up of 15 talented high school performers whose schools participate in Starlight’s Blue Star Awards program. The ensemble members and their high schools are: Margaret Ahearn (Saint Thomas Aquinas), Danielle Blankenship (Oak Park), Jordan DeLeon (Olathe South), Amanda Dulny (Shawnee Mission Northwest), Jessica Haney (Lee’s Summit West), Katie Hulla (Saint Thomas Aquinas), Holly Jackson (Shawnee Mission West), Alexa Morgan (St. James Academy), J.P. O’Donnell (Blue Valley, now at UMKC), Megan Secrest (Olathe South), Fisher Stewart (Olathe West), Devyn Trondson (Shawnee Mission Northwest), Megan Walstrom (Shawnee Mission East), Garrett Williams (Liberty North) and Tori Wyatt (Truman).
Tickets for Grease at Starlight Theatre are on sale now starting at $14. Tickets are available online at www.kcstarlight.com, by calling 816.363.STAR (7827) or at the Starlight box office at 4600 Starlight Road, Kansas City, MO 64132. All performances begin at 8 p.m. Discount prices for groups of 10 or more are available. For information about group pricing, contact group sales coordinator Camille Sumrall at 816.997.1137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Starlight Theatre
Starlight Theatre, a recent winner of the Venue Excellence Award from the International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM), is the largest and oldest performing arts organization in Kansas City and the second-largest outdoor producing theatre in the country. Opened as a theater in 1950 and as a not-for-profit organization in 1951, Starlight presents and produces Broadway musicals and concerts. It also offers extensive community outreach and educational programming, including classes, scholarships and Starlight’s Blue Star Awards, one of the largest high school musical theatre award programs in the nation.Located on 16 acres in Swope Park, Starlight’s venue includes rehearsal halls, gift store, club area for dining, concessions, gardens, fountains and a 10-story, climate-controlled stage. For more information, visit www.kcstarlight.com.