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Things are still swinging over at Rydell High School, 40 years after the movie "Grease" turned Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta into heartthrobs.

Billings Studio Theatre is re-staging the musical 10 years after its sold-out run, which included an encore performance at the Alberta Bair Theater.

Director Kelly Martin returns to lead the cast, which includes his son Austin Martin as Danny Zuko.

Ten years ago, Austin played the nerd, Eugene. He's loving the larger role in this production, which opens March 2 and runs through March 17.

The show is already 70 percent sold out. Tickets are available by calling BST at 248-1141.

During a recent rehearsal, Martin, now 28, had the slicked back hair and the swagger for Danny down pat. And most importantly, Martin shows he's got the vocal chops, honed from a recording and performing career. His latest album, “Cold November,” was recently released and when “Grease” closes, he’ll hit the road on a national tour.

"It's been a dream come true," Martin said. "I've always wanted to play Danny."

Kelly Martin brought back his favorite choreographer, Michelle Guelff, and local actress Tiffani Melia, who plays the role of Rizzo.

Kelly said he grew up listening to the “Grease” movie soundtrack.

“It’s the movie, right,” Kelly said. “It spans all generations. It came out when I was 10 and I think I saw it 30 times. I was obsessed with it.”

The 1978 film, starring Olivia Newton-John as Sandy and John Travolta as Danny, continues to bring in new fans. All but four songs from the film are in the stage production, including the hits, “Greased Lightning” and “Summer Lovin'."

Playing the leading role of Sandy is Peri Russell, a West High student who is already a theater veteran with strong vocal skills. Russell has performed in “Rock of Ages” and “Mary Poppins,” among other shows.

Russell’s connections to “Grease” also go way back.

“My mom raised me on ‘Grease.’ It’s fun to be actually performing it. “

Kelly said part of the reason fans love the show is that it harkens back to a more innocent time.

“It’s kind of a campy show, but the music is so great. It does take us back to a time of more innocence."

Kelly said he was pleased with the cast, which includes several high school students, a few college students and some cast members in their 20s. Directing his oldest son in this show isn’t hard since Kelly said Austin trusts his judgment.

Austin did say that his dad may be a bit harder on him than other cast members, but he appreciates the strong direction to improve his performance.

“I trust everything he tells me. It’s nice to have a director with so much experience,” Austin said.

Guelff said she and Kelly have worked together on many shows over the years. Their first collaboration was on “Frog and Toad,” a show where Kelly was an actor and Guelff the choreographer.

“We still think each other is so funny,” Guelff said.


Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.