"Grease", the popular musical of a high school love story set in the 1950s, was the first of the "juke box musicals", according to David Halliwell. This Thursday, Halliwell and his wife, Susan, will co-direct a young cast in the New England Repertory Summer Theatre Workshop production of "Grease" at the Jockey Hollow School Auditorium, as the curtain continues to rise for performances held right through Saturday.
David Halliwell describes a juke box musical as having "very little plot with one song after another."
"It's pretty close to the movie," he said. "Anyone who knows the movie, knows the show."
While John Travolta and Olivia Newton John played the lead characters Danny and Sandy in the screen version, the Monroe musical stars Joey Socci and Anna DiTaranto, both from Monroe.
David Halliwell said the 46-member cast includes kids from Monroe, Newtown and Easton with two from Delaware.
"We're crossing state lines this year," he said.
Performances will be Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., with two shows on Saturday at 2 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and $15 for adults and can be purchased at the door as long as seats are available. Halliwell said the weekend is selling fast.
A Theater Boot Camp
Susan Halliwell is the producer of the New England Repertory Summer Theatre Workshop, which is in its 21st year.
Judy Abbatiello of the is the choreographer for "Grease" and her son Michael, a dance major who graduated from Ohio State University this past spring, is assistant choreographer.
David Halliwell said the summer theater program has become a family affair for the Halliwells and the Abbatiellos.
"Our son, Robert, joined us this year," he said. "He helps with directing and with the acting classes."
Brooke Burling designed the set and Stephanie Cohen and Maureen DiTaranto made the costumes. Halliwell said Gabrielle Brazauskas, the show's musical director, taught over 18 musical numbers.
Halliwell said the New England Repertory Summer Theatre Workshop is a four week theater-intensive program. Classes in acting, dance and vocal performances are held in the morning with rehearsals in the afternoon. This summer it started in July and, by Thursday, Halliwell said the kids will have had about 12 days of rehearsals and two days of auditions, which will end with four shows.
"It's like theater boot camp for the kids," he said. "For their summer, they're locked in a theater from 8:30 in the morning to 3 o'clock in the afternoon. It's hot and uncomfortable and they work all the time. It's really busy, but they love what they do, just as we do. The quality of the show is just unbelievable. It's a huge production with complicated sets and over 150 costumes — all done in four weeks."