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Grease

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta star in ‘Grease.’ Photo courtesy of Fathom Events

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, “Grease” will return to select movie theaters nationwide on April 8, 11 and 14, courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies. 

Based on the 1971 Broadway musical, the movie, starring John Travolta as greaser Danny Zuko and Olivia Newton-John as his sweet and innocent girlfriend Sandy Olsson who dance their way through their senior year at Rydell High, was a smash hit when it was released in 1978, becoming the highest grossing film of the year and it is still the second-highest grossing movie musical of all time. 

The cast also included Stockard Channing (Rizzo), Didi Conn (Frenchie), Jeff Conaway (Kenickie), Eve Arden (Principal McGee), Sid Caesar (Coach Calhoun) and Annette Charles (Cha Cha DiGregorio) with a special appearance by Frankie Avalon.

The movie’s unforgettable soundtrack, which includes such hits as “Summer Nights,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You Are the One That I Want” and “Sandy,” was the second best–selling album of 1978, behind “Saturday Night Fever,” which also starred Travolta. 

“Whether you’ve seen it dozens of times and know the words to every song, or you’re in for the rare treat of seeing it for the first time, watching ‘Grease’ on the big screen with an audience is an unforgettable experience that we’re delighted to offer movie lovers,” said Tom Lucas, VP of Studio Relations at Fathom Events.

The screening will include an exclusive commentary from TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz who will give insight into this classic film that has become a pop culture phenomenon. 

Participating movie theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook at 2 and 7 p.m. on April 8 and 11 and at 2 p.m. on April 14; Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale on April 8 at 2 p.m. and April 11 at 7 p.m.; and Island 16 Cinema de Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville on April 8 at 2 p.m. and April 11 at 7 p.m. To purchase your ticket in advance, visit www.fathomevents.com.

The cast of 'Grease'. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Melissa Arnold

When it comes to musical theater, few shows are more beloved with theatergoers than “Grease.” Can you blame us, though? It’s an old, familiar story: Boy meets girl. They fall in love. Things get messy.

Put simply, it’s a snapshot of teenage relationships that’s almost universally relatable. And thanks to the 1978 film adaptation starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, “Grease” is permanently cemented into the hearts of so many.

From left, Madeleine Barker (as Rizzo), Laura Helm (as Marty), Liana Hunt (as Sandy) and Sari Alexander (as Frenchy).

All this makes it the perfect summer kickoff for the John W. Engeman Theater’s 11th season. For those of you who are not familiar with the plot, “Grease,” written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, follows the Rydell High School Class of 1959 through the highs and lows of hormone-fueled infatuation.

At the center of it all is Sandy Drumbrowski (Liana Hunt), the naïve, charming new girl in town who catches the eye of notorious bad boy Danny Zuko (Sam Wolf). While the two develop a whirlwind summer romance, the transition back to Rydell High is a tough one. Peer pressure, social stereotypes and the desire to fit in pull Danny and Sandy in different directions while sending ripples of tension through their circle of friends. While it sounds like a lot of drama, the show is full of fast-paced banter and folly that will keep you laughing and singing along until the end.

Director Paul Stancato leads a cast of theater veterans in a well-polished performance that’s hard to criticize. Such high quality is what you can expect to see regularly at the Engeman.

Liana Hunt plays Sandy in a way that’s down to earth and totally believable. Her voice is strong without being over the top. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” allows her to shine on her own, which is appreciated in a show mostly comprised of duets and chorus numbers.

From left, Chris Collins Pisano (as Roger), Sam Wolf (as Danny), Chris Stevens (as Kenickie), Zach Erhardt (as Doody) and Casey Shane (as Sonny) perform ‘Greased Lightnin’.

As Danny, Sam Wolf builds fantastic chemistry leading the rebellious Thunderbirds. The first words in the iconic “Summer Nights” will leave no doubt about why Wolf got the role — he can sing, and that same passion translates to everything he does on stage.

But this production wouldn’t be what it is without the phenomenal supporting cast, who are every bit as talented as Hunt and Wolf. In fact, they nearly stole the show.

The T-birds (Zach Erhardt, Chris Collins-Pisano, Chris Stevens and Casey Shane) are hysterically funny. Their antics will make you laugh out loud, especially when they briefly dip into the audience. They’re also incredible dancers, pulling off flips and jumps like they’re nothing.

The Pink Ladies (Hannah Slabaugh, Laura Helm, Madeleine Barker and Sari Alexander) are a force of their own as well — each one stands out from the group with individuality and assertiveness. Of particular mention is Barker, who plays the cynical Betty Rizzo with tons of natural swagger, and Slabaugh, who you can’t help but love during “Mooning,” a duet her character Jan performs with Roger (Collins-Pisano).

From left, Madeleine Barker (as Rizzo), Laura Helm (as Marty), Liana Hunt (as Sandy) and Sari Alexander (as Frenchy).

The efforts of choreographer Antoinette DiPietropolo and dance captain Tim Falter have definitely paid off in this production. Dancing is central to the plot in “Grease,” and the cast’s quick, complicated routines are worth shouting over. From the opening “Grease Is the Word” to the dance contest during “Born to Hand Jive,” they should be commended for both their skill and the stamina required to pull off the show.

And while you can’t see the band at the Engeman — they are tucked neatly under the stage — their rock ‘n’ roll carries the whole show. In fact, if not for their credits in the program, you might think the music was prerecorded. The six-man ensemble is led by conductor/keyboardist Alec Bart.

Costume designer Matthew Solomon does a fantastic job transporting us back to the ’50s. The dresses worn by the girls at the school dance are gorgeous and colorful, and their twirling skirts are perfect for all the dancing in that scene.

Liana Hunt (as Sandy) and Sam Wolf (as Danny) in a scene from ‘Grease’.

The set, designed by Stephen Dobay, is simple but functional. The stage is flanked by generic buildings on either side, but there are also a set of risers leading up to a second level. This area was transformed throughout the performance last Saturday night and allowed for multiple conversations or settings to occur at once. It works especially well as a stage for the school dance.

Overall, this production is exactly what you’d expect to see from such a classic show — there are no surprises, and that’s a good thing. Find your seats early to relax with a drink while listening to top hits from the ’50s, and make sure you stay through the curtain call for a brief, fun sing-a-long with the cast.

Runtime is 2 hours and 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission. Be aware that strobe lights and haze are used throughout the show.

See “Grease” now through Aug. 27 at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. Tickets range from $73 to $78 and may be purchased by calling 631-261-2900 or by visiting www.engemantheater.com. Free valet parking is available.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

‘E.T. the Extra Terrestrial’ will be screened on Dec. 26 at the Cinema Arts Centre. Photo from CAC

By Melissa Arnold

The holidays are all about spending time with the family and making memories, whether it’s by shopping, baking together or traveling. But when all the hustle and bustle wraps up next week, some families might be left wondering, “Now what?”

The Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington is offering a unique suggestion: Give your kids a taste of your childhood.

Beginning Dec. 26, the theater will celebrate Winter Holiday Week, where moviegoers can see some of the most beloved family classics on the big screen for the first time in decades.

The lineup includes “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” on Dec. 26, a 25th anniversary celebration of “Home Alone” on Dec. 28, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” on Dec. 29 and a special sing-along version of the musical “Grease” with onscreen lyrics on Dec. 30.

“These are shows that evoke memories for a lot of people, and getting to see it in the theater with their families or friends can be a lot like reliving the experience of seeing it for the first time,” said Raj Tawney, publicity director for the theater.

The CAC plays host to all kinds of artistic expression, not just film, including  concerts and lectures. The theater typically screens films with serious or intense themes that are best suited for adults, but they also offer events for all ages at least once a month with their Cinema for Kids and Families series.

“We’re looking for films that will interest a large audience and maintain our integrity as an art house cinema,” Tawney explained. And with kids off from school until the new year, there’s no better time for family films.

Also in the lineup for the week is Kid Flix Mix on Dec. 27, an hour-long collection of 11 live-action and animated shorts from the New York International Film Festival. The films come from all over the world, but all dialogue is in English.

“Kid Flix Mix has films from Australia, France, Russia, Norway, England and many other places throughout the world, which is a great opportunity for kids to learn something new,” Tawney said. “They can see more than just what’s a part of their culture. They’ll learn the importance of fantasy and that creativity comes in so many different forms.”

Many of the short films feature animals. One film, Torill Kove’s “Me and My Moulton,” was an Oscar nominee this year.

Before or after the show, Tawney recommends visiting the center’s Skyroom Café for a meal or snack, beverages and conversation. “People really love getting together at the cafe to talk and relax after a show,” he said. “The day doesn’t have to end just because the show is over.”

Winter Holiday Week will be held at noon every day from Dec. 26 through Dec. 30. The Cinema Arts Centre is located at 423 Park Ave., Huntington. Tickets are $12 for adults and free for children under 12.

To buy tickets or learn more, visit www.cinemaartscentre.org or call 631- 423-7611.

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