LSU Musical Theatre taps into the fun, nostalgia of ‘Grease’

The show simply wouldn’t be complete without certain traditions. The choreography for “Greased Lightin’.” The hand motions for “Born to Hand Jive.” Or the way Danny slowly raises his hand to point high in the sky at the end of “Summer Nights.”

That might not have happened when “Grease” originally premiered in the Broadhurst Theatre on Broadway in 1972, but that’s how John Travolta did it in the 1978 movie version, which almost everyone knows. So, Danny will point to the sky in the LSU Musical Theatre Club’s production of the musical, which runs Jan. 24-25 in the LSU Union Theater.

“We chose ‘Grease,’ because we wanted a musical that the people in our cast could relate to,” Lily McGill says. “College theater sometimes can be so heavy. We wanted to show that it’s OK to lighten things up. ‘Grease’ is fun and nostalgic.”

McGill is the play’s director, as well as a club member, meaning she’s a student at LSU. And though all cast members in the club’s first musical are LSU students, not all are club members.

“We opened auditions to anyone who wanted to try out,” McGill says. “But the interesting thing about this production is that it’s an all-student production.”

The club’s faculty adviser is Terry Patrick Harris, the LSU School of Music’s voice professional-in-residence. Harris teaches a musical theater class, which usually stages a musical revue in the spring.

The cast gathers in the old LSU Band Hall on this particular Saturday for a full run-through of the show. Even the rehearsal setting offers a sense of nostalgia with its history of school spirit.

The T-Birds are here, as are the Pink Ladies.

And fate leads Danny and Sandy from their opposite worlds to fall in love.

Well, fate with the help of music director Nathan Walker, who plays out every song on the grand piano in the corner of the room.

He’ll be graduating with a master’s degree in choral conducting at the end of the semester and will direct the live band accompanying the cast when “Grease” hits the stage.

Danny will be played by freshman Jacob Voisin, and Sandy by Victoria Clement.

“Sandy is my dream role,” Clement says. “I know all the songs, but what’s funny is that my mom has a picture of me when I was little wearing a leather jacket singing all the Danny songs.”

Now the Danny songs are left to Voisin, who is adding a little of his own interpretation to the role.

Watch, for instance, how Danny treats goody-two-shoes Patty Simcox. There’s no malice to be found.

“Danny knows she has a crush on him, and it’s flattering,” Voisin says. “She might get a little irritating, but Danny tries to be patient. It’s been fun playing someone who is so unlike me.”

The rest is for the audience members to figure out, but that won’t be difficult.

Most of them already know the songs and moves, where “Grease” is the word.

CAST: Victoria Clement, Sandy; Jacob Voisin, Danny; Emily Heck, Rizzo; Curran Latas, Kenickie; Juliet Liuzza, Marty; Lance Benezech, Doody; Genna Guidry, Frenchy; Carter Dean, Roger; Alaina Richard, Jan; Scott Mitchell, Sonny; Madeline Engler, Patty; Sarah Fruge, Cha-Cha; Ben Ross, Eugene; Jason Dowies, Teen Angel; Brendon Landry, Johnny Casino; Kamrin Kennedy, Vince Fontaine; Ensemble: Lydia Abadie, Alexander Adams, Paige Bethea, Ellie Boudreaux, Caitlin Brimer, Alex DiLeo, Katherine Kelly, Emma Harvey, Morgan Lobert, Cole Barranco, Jordan Semplonius, Brittany Spencer, Ashton Williams.

ARTSTIC STAFF: Lily McGill, director; Nathan Walker, music director; Caila Gowland, choreographer.