Will Dixon isn’t a stranger to the show “Grease” that’s coming to the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale in a few weeks.
He participated in a production of Grease about 10 years ago and is now taking on the job of director for the upcoming production.
“Directing is always a completely different ballgame,” said Dixon. “It’s allowed me to look at the show as a whole versus looking at the show through a specific characters eyes.”
His thought about the musical is that it’s the connections between the characters that make the show, which can sometimes get lost in the spectacle.
“When I proposed ‘Grease’ to the Actors and Artists of Fayette County Board, they were instantly ready to listen to my vision and to allow me to bring it to fruition,” said the director.
A popular Broadway show before it became a smash hit movie at the box office in 1978, the show is set in the 1950s and follows teens Danny and Australian transfer student Sandy and their relationship after finding that she will be attending the same high school as Danny, who she met and had a relationship with over the summer.
Rotten Tomatoes synopsis of the film said that despite their summer fling, at Rydell High it’s all about the cliques. As one of the bad-boy T-Birds, Danny has to act cool for best pal Kenickie and their leather-clad mates. Despite befriending Frenchy, one of the rebel Pink Ladies, virginal Sandy is “too pure to be Pink,” as the Ladies’ leader, Rizzo acidly observes. Declaring their devotion in such ballads as “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “Sandy,” Sandy and Danny split, reconcile, and split again amidst a pep rally, dances, drive-ins, and a drag race, before deciding “You’re the One That I Want” at the climactic carnival.
Dixon said directing it has been a pleasure, and the leads have created more of a bond than he ever anticipated.
“What I love most about the show is that each character is so unique and has so many bonds with other characters,” he said. “It allows for great moments throughout the show to shine.”
Giving the very familiar show a change of perspective has been the most challenging thing so far.
“Is Sandy going to be blonde, are we going to see (insert specific moment from the movie here) and the list of decisions just goes on,” said Dixon. “The answer is usually no. You will be seeing some things in ‘Grease’ you may never have seen before. We’re sticking true to the source material, but we’re focusing most of relationships, history and bonds — and Sandy will have auburn hair.
He added that audiences will experience the “vision and collective collaborative tapestry” of the show’s creative team.
“I can promise that Paige McLaughlin will be bringing some fun, energetic and refreshingly new dancing to the stage as my second year choreographer,” Dixon said.
Sandy is played by Uniontown native Isabella Leonardo and Danny is played by Danny Ebeling of Scottdale.
Leonardo said this is just her second show at the Geyer (performing in “Annie” in 2011) or any community theater at all.
“I’m moving to New York in the fall to persue musical theater, and I auditioned for the show because I wanted to broaden my horizons,” she said. “Community theater is a very important and exciting learning experience that I’ve missed out on in the recent years.”
Meeting people from all over that share the same passion and goals has been the best part of her experience so far.
“At first I was nervous, being the ‘new girl,’ but everyone has really welcomed me with open arms,” Leonardo said. “I’m learning so much from so many different people, and I’m extremely thankful that the cast is not only talented beyond belief, but they’re all very kind as well.”
This is Ebeling’s first show at the Geyer Theater.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been very fond of the movie and always dreamed of being Danny Zuko,” he said. “When a bunch of my friends told me that they were putting the show on at the Geyer, I just had to audition.”
Acting on stage alongside so many talented people who also love the arts has been one of the best parts of the experience so far for Ebeling.
“Getting down the ‘50s dance moves has definitely been a little challenging, but in the end it’s been a lot of fun,” he said.
The show is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 15-17 and 2:30 p.m. Aug. 18. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at www.geyerpac.com,724-887-0887 or at the box office at 111 Pittsburgh St., Scottdale.