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Grease opens in Merrillville tomorrow. [Aug. 18th, 2006|11:43 am]


I'm playing Sandy in Grease. We open tomorrow night at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville. Tickets can be bought through Ticketmaster, the Star Plaza box office, or at the door for $20.

Show dates:
August 19 at 8:00 (to benefit St. Jude House)
August 20 at 3:00
August 26 at 2:00
August 26 at 8:00

Slick Rockin’
Aug. 18, 2006

By Bob Kostanczuk
Post-Tribune staff writer

As Joe Mireles sees it, there’s a swagger to his character of Danny Zuko.

“You gotta play it cool,” said Mireles, an 18-year-old Merrillville resident.

On the other side of the coin, Jill Smallman says there’s an innocence to her character of Sandy Dumbrowski.

“She’s very naive, and so you just gotta kind of smile and be confused,” Smallman said with a laugh.

Smallman, a 20-year-old Dyer resident, teams up with Mireles in “Grease,” which is being presented by Star Productions of Merrillville.

A four-show run of the retro musical begins Saturday at the Star Plaza Theatre.

The Merrillville venue began producing Broadway-style, regional theater in the summer of 2003 when its saucy version of “Cabaret” debuted.

For “Grease,” Star Productions is counting on the youthful talent and energy of Mireles and Smallman, who have the lead roles in a summery getaway that will transport audiences back to high school days in the 1950s.

A 2006 graduate of Merrillville High School, Mireles has previously racked up theater experience entirely through school plays.

“This is my first thing out of high school, and by far the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he said.

Smallman, meanwhile, has done theater in high school and college.

“This is my first thing outside of anything academic-related,” she said of her “Grease” role.

The opportunity to play Sandy is a golden one for the student at Indiana University in Bloomington.

“This is the show that I’ve wanted to do since I saw the movie when I was 8 years old,” said Smallman, alluding to the 1978 cinematic version of “Grease” that starred John Travolta as Danny and Olivia Newton-John as Sandy.

“I’ve always wanted to do Sandy,” Smallman added. “It’s the one role that I always dreamed of doing.”

Mireles and Smallman will have the veteran guidance of Paul and Angie Lowe, who are directing “Grease.”

Longtime staples of community theater in Northwest Indiana, the Lowes have put their directorial stamp on numerous plays that have buttressed the area’s reputation for theatrical vibrancy.

“My husband and I have always been used to working with young kids and bringing a lot of things out of them,” Angie Lowe said this week.

Although the cast of “Grease” is not getting paid, the production provides the chance for up-and-coming actors and actresses to gain exposure in a show that has corporate clout behind it.

Because of the Star Plaza Theatre’s involvement, there’ll be the type of financial muscle and professional-production values that community-theater troupes would be hard-pressed to match.

Lowe said audiences can expect a “big, monster set.” There’ll also be plenty of poodle skirt-era tunes like “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightning” and “We Go Together.”

A band will supply music.

Just like any adaptation, the Star Plaza Theatre’s version of “Grease” will add distinct nuances to a musical that’s been running on large and small stages since its premiere in 1971.

“We’re sticking pretty much to what is required in the script, but putting a few little touches here and there,” Lowe noted.

She said Star Productions’ presentation of “Grease” will include “You’re the One That I Want.”

A No. 1 pop hit in the United States, the tune was written for the 1978 movie. It was not part of the stage version’s song list.

The Star Plaza Theatre, meanwhile, is touting “electrifying entertainment,” courtesy of the T-Birds, Pink Ladies and all of their Rydell High mates.

Hope to see you there!

Love, Sandra Dee