‘Grease’ revival brings spirit of youth to Istanbul stage

“Grease” is the one you want, the one you need. Oh yes indeed!

When it comes to musicals, the first production that comes to mind is “Grease” for sure. The world’s favorite musical, elaborating on the summer romance of two young teenagers, is an exercise in nostalgia blended with the rhythmic motifs of the 50s. However, with its story that transcends time thanks to its focus on the young generation, revolving around the themes of teenage rebellion, bullying, friendship and gang violence, “Grease” captures the airy, lightheartedness of youth and relays it to generations of audiences, reminding them of the old days when their heads were in the clouds. This may be why it has become the top musical, one that audiences never tire of rediscovering through its many revivals, including famous Broadway and West End performances.

A scene from the “Grease” revival by Yeditepe University Dance Club.

The latest revival of the musical has arrived in Istanbul with a performance by Yeditepe University Dance Club. The young performers put the musical, which they have been eagerly waiting to perform since 2019, on stage at Inan Kıraç Hall at Yeditepe University on May 10-12. Their last performance on the Harbiye Muhsin Ertuğrul Stage filled the room with energy late Thursday. The fact that the troupe planned the final performance of the musical on May 19 was particularly meaningful as it coincides with the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day in Turkey.

The national holiday actually pays tribute to Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. May 19 is a milestone as it is the day when Mustafa Kemal arrived in the Black Sea city of Samsun from Istanbul in 1919 to take the first step on the country’s path to independence after World War I. It is the day when Turkey’s War of Independence ban, which saw the remnants of the Ottoman Empire transformed into modern Turkey four years later, began. Atatürk dedicated May 19 to the youth of the Turkish nation and it would later be marked as Youth and Sports Day, with young people staging sporting and cultural activities in remembrance of Mustafa Kemal’s fight for the country’s independence.

I believe there is no better way to celebrate such a significant day than performing an artistic musical.

“Grease,” which was staged for the first time in the early 1970s, presents a cheerful story that evokes the nostalgia of the 50s through the romantic relationships of a handful of young people living their last year in high school, accompanied by catchy original compositions. and popular rock and roll songs. The revival by Yeditepe University Dance Club mostly follows the plot of the 1987 film version based on the original musical.

Depicting the lives of greaser Danny Zuko and Australian transfer student Sandy Olsson, who develop an attraction for each other during a summer romance, the musical opens with a scene when Danny (Ferhat Tuma) and Sandy (Özge Aysuk) bid farewell to each other at the end of the summer. When Sandy tells Danny that they may never see each other again, Danny replies: “This is only the beginning.”

In the next scene, the audience watches Danny come together with his gang the T-Birds for their senior year at the Rydell High School while the greaser girl gang, the Pink Ladies, meet Sandy, whose parents decided not to return to Australia and has enrolled at school. Unaware of each other’s presence at the high school, Danny and Sandy explain their summer flings to their friends accompanied by the song “Summer Nights.” While Danny’s version implies the sexuality of their relationship, Sandy focuses on the romantic part.

A scene from the

A scene from the

Then Sandy finally reveals Danny’s name and Rizzo (Şara Türesel) plans a surprise meeting for them. However, Danny maintains his bad-boy facade in front of his gang and acts as if he does not care about Sandy. In tears, Sandy agrees to join the pajama party that Frenchy is throwing for the Pink Ladies but Rizzo makes fun of her with the song “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee.” Then Sandy goes outside and reflects on her love for Danny, singing the ballad “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”

In the next scene, the dance club performs one of the musical’s most famous tracks, “Greased Lightnin’,” as the T-birds try to restore a used car unveiled by gang member Kenickie for a drag race. When the T-birds and Pink Ladies go to a cafe to hang out, revealing their lower economic class to the audience, Frenchy is visited by a guardian angel who advises her to return to Rydell and leave the beauty class she attends with the song “Beauty School Dropout.”

Then the long-awaited school dance contest comes “Born to Hand Jive,” ending with the triumph of Danny and Cha-Cha and leaving Sandy broken-hearted. Meanwhile, Rizzo fears she is pregnant and when she starts to be laughed at by other girls, she understands she is not so tough. In this part, I shall mention that Türesel received a standing ovation from the audience with her performance of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.”

Then Sandy decides to change her attitude to impress Danny by performing “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee (Reprise)” and meets Danny dressed in black. The teenagers reconcile with the “You’re the One That I Want” performance. At the end of the musical, the dance group then gave a short performance of all the songs and dances throughout the musical for the audience.

A scene from the 'Grease' revival by Yeditepe University Dance Club.

A scene from the “Grease” revival by Yeditepe University Dance Club.

“Grease” by Yeditepe University Dance Club was a thrilling and grittier revival of the musical. While the young actors and dancers did their best to present the spirit of the youth of the 50s, they stirred the whole crowd up. Nevertheless, the audiences were on the edge of their seats and couldn’t stop accompanying the young, energized performers.

The musical is directed by Cenk Sözeri and beautifully choreographed by Yiğit Dündar. Fehmi Cesur Özdemir served as the music director while and the sound engineer was Uğurcan Moroğlu and the lighting was designed by Serdal Ece.

Among other actors were Ali Cihan Keleş, Yaren Sıla Yavuz, Yiğit Keskin, İlke Budak, Deniz Güney Özel, Aselin Bay, Derin Deniz Keskin, Berna Arabacı, Sedat Can Tuncalı, Karin Şarklı, Begüm Kendirli and Doruk Yargıcı. The dancers included Dündar, Meltem Öncül, Şahap Aksaçlı, Ezgi Kocakuşaklar, Harun Yıldız, Selen Erkişi, Oğuzhan Balım, Elvira Cehiz, Tuğberk Öner, Defne Urfalıoğlu, Alp Özkal, Ecem Gök, Devrim Güneş Dayıoğlu, Melike Uzunalioğlu, Yaren Dönmez, Siren Çağla Kallem, Nihal Yazgan, Dilan Gizem Korkmaz, Lotus Tara Süer, Duru Akman, Sinem Sönmez, Şevval Tuğrul, Letisya Serkizyan, Doğa Karagülle, Zeynep Eda Ceylan, Yağmur Kocaman, Ebru Görener, Miray Bahçivan, Buse Akar, Ayşe Ayan, Defne Zongur and Reyhan Vatandas.

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