LOOKING GOOD: The touring production of Grease is being staged by Brisbane musical theatre company Harvest Rain.ACTRESS Meghan O’Shea was delighted when she learned that she was playing the leading role of high school girl Sandy opposite Drew Weston as heartthrob Danny in a touring production of the musical Grease.

They have known each other for 10 years, meeting when they enrolled in the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) three-year bachelor of arts musical theatre course in 2007. And since graduation they have worked together in national tours of musicals Oklahoma and The Rocky Horror Show.

One of the challenges of the current production of Grease, staged by Brisbane musical theatre company Harvest Rain, is that the professional performers have to work with 800 local young people aged 10 to 21 in the cities where the show is staged.

As Grease is set in a high school and shows the romantic hopes and manoeuvres of senior students, the use of a large backing ensemble of young singers and dancers is appropriate, with some girls becoming members of the Pink Ladies clique and boys joining the T-Birds.

This is the second year that Harvest Rain has toured a musical with the ensembles drawn from local schools, and the rehearsals and shows being in school holidays. As happened with last year’s Hairspray, the Newcastle shows follow those in Brisbane, with Grease being staged at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre from July 14 to 16. And as Grease is predominantly set among students at a high school, Harvest Rain has included almost 300 more young people than appeared in the first show.

Grease was written in 1972 as an amusing satirical look at low-cost 1950s films set in high schools. When the musical was filmed in 1978, with Olivia Newton-John as Sandy, extra songs were written for her, and the stage version has been adapted to include them. Meghan O’Shea said that while adult audience members were nostalgic about the rock and other numbers, younger members could connect with the characters and incidents.

Sandy and Danny meet at a resort during school holidays and are attracted to each other. But when Danny returns to school and finds that Sandy is a fellow student, things become complicated.

The Grease songs include Summer Nights, You’re the One That I Want and Greased Lightnin’. Among the other professional cast members are Cessnock Golden Guitar-winning singer Travis Collins, Jemma Rix, Lauren McKenna, Barry Conrad, Ruby Clark, Stacey de Waard, and Emily Monsma. Grease is at Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Friday, July 14, at 7.30pm, Saturday, July 15, at 2pm and 7.30pm, and Sunday, July 16, at 1pm. Tickets: $74.65 to $136.40.

Bookings: 4921 2121.