'Grease' is the word for youth theater

The Summer Youth Theatre kids rarely disappoint their audiences, and "Grease!" is no exception.

The energetic show opened Thursday night to a packed house at the Lawrence Arts Center, and received a standing ovation and plenty of hoots and yollers from the audience.

The musical -- made famous on Broadway and then revamped into a movie starring a sleek John Travolta and a perky Olivia Newton-John -- is a rousing and fun trip back to the 1950s, with talk of hot cars, rumbles and school dances.

Trish Averill, a veteran of SYT who will leave Lawrence this summer to go to college, stars as Sandy, a sweet innocent who falls for the leather-jacketed Danny, played by Adam Blair. Averill's voice is at its best, and she is able to convey, with subtle nuances, the inner struggles of her character. Blair shines in the comical solo "Alone at the Drive-In Movie."

Other standouts are Stacy Jo Donly as Rizzo, whose voice is strong and who shows her character's personality best when singing "Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee"; Patti Beedles and Skye-Laurel Riggs as perky Frenchy and Jan, respectively; Yosie Cardin-Ritter as nerdy Eugene; Jessica Heck as the saucy Cha-Cha; Matthew Pool's solo as Teen Angel; and the ensemble work of Sean Hargis, Colin Elliott and the rest of the '50s-style punks.

Anne Laue-Minden, Emily Sack and Chandra Shenoy's graceful and disciplined dancing -- modern and en pointe -- was performed superbly, especially given the confined space of the theater.

The show, directed by Ric Averill, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. today, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The show contains language and subject material not appropriate for young children.

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