A few words with major players in CUTC's 'Grease'

A few words with major players in CUTC's 'Grease'

"Grease" is the word for hot summer nights at an all-student production.

WHITNEY HAVICE, who's directing her first show for the Champaign Urbana Theatre Company, has choreographed and/or appeared in over 60 productions locally for CUTC, the Station Theatre, Parkland College Theatre and Twin City Squared, as well as in the Chicago area.

RUTH ZIELKE (Rizzo) is a recently graduated senior heading to Millikin University to study acting, music and dance. This is her 11th CUTC production. Her brother JOSIAH is also in the cast.

The director and a major player talked to staff writer Paul Wood.

First and most important, what do you love about Grease?

Whitney: "I grew up watching 'Grease,' and I've always loved the energetic, iconic music and characters from the show. 'The Hand Jive,' 'Beauty School Dropout,' (just to name a few from the show) are to this day some of my favorites, both the choreography and the music. It captures a slice of high school Americana that's very specific to the time period that it takes place in, yet there are certain themes of the high school experience that translate to modern times that we can all probably relate to, at least a little bit."

Ruth: "Definitely the songs.

"There's a reason the whole world seems to know songs like 'Summer Nights,' 'Greased Lightning' and 'You're the One That I Want'; they're as fun and catchy as they are iconic. And the choreography by Whitney just makes them that much more fun. Getting to sing and dance to fun, catchy songs with some of my closest friends is just a blast, and I'm certain the audience will be able to tell how much fun we are having and have no choice but to join in."

You're a latecomer to 'Grease'-dom.

Ruth: "Oddly enough, I somehow went 18 years of my life without seeing 'Grease,' although I knew all the characters and songs (who doesn't?). As the show approached, I finally got around to watching the movie as well as some stage productions. And I know this may be an unpopular opinion, but I'm actually more of a fan of Aaron Tveit's Danny in last year's 'Grease Live!' than John Travolta's portrayal in the film."

And you had an eye for the romantic lead.

Ruth: "I actually auditioned for Sandy over Rizzo, and the wonderfully talented Katie Witruk — our Sandy — auditioned for Rizzo over Sandy. I've never really seen myself as a Rizzo; I'm very awkward and goofy and not at all cool or tough. But I am convinced the directors definitely made the right choice with their casting of us. (But) Rizzo is without a doubt the character who is given the most depth and complexity, at least in the stage production. As Rizzo, I get to deal with her pregnancy scare, her deep-seated jealousy of girls like Sandy and the vulnerable side she barely hides behind her tough shell. Plus, it's just a ton of fun to be a chain-smoking, alcoholic bad girl who doesn't care what anybody else thinks because it's so completely different than myself."

Whithey, You're directing your first show for CUTC. How is that different from your earlier work as a choreographer?

Whitney: "There's a lot that's very different — some that I was expecting, and some that I wasn't! You have to think beyond choreography and blocking, and think about all of the technical aspects of the show as a director. I was expecting a lot of that, but there have been some things that have popped up that I wasn't expecting — as the director, all decisions lead back to you with the design aspects of the show — where, as a choreographer, you're only concerned with the aspects of the certain numbers that you've been asked to choreograph."

If you go

What: "Grease"

Who: Champaign Urbana Theatre Company student production

Where: Harold and Jean Miner Theatre, Parkland College

When: 7 p.m. June 14-16 and 21-23; 2 p.m. June 17 and 24

Tickets: $14 for adults and $12 for seniors 65-plus and students under 18

Info: cutc.org or 217-352-4085

Topics (2):Education, Theater