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Grease comes to Ashland

The Children&

s Musical Theatre of Ashland presents &

Grease &

The School Version,&

through next weekend at the Historic Ashland Armory. The musical, with a cast of 29, will feature some of the Rogue Valley&

s most promising young performers in this &

edited for families&

version of the stage and screen classic musical production. Songs will include, &

We Go Together,&

&

You&

re The One That I Want,&

&

Greased Lightning,&

and other favorites.

&

Grease&

will be directed by John Taylor, who, along with his wife Rhonda, founded CMTA in 2005. Taylor, who hails from California, has more than 25 years of experience as a professional keyboardist, pianist, musical director, composer and producer. As a middle school student, he taught himself to play the piano, and studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He has served as musical director and conductor of Cirque du Soleil&

s &

O&

at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. He has also worked with entertainers such as Jennifer Lopez, DeBarge, Exposé and Rick Astley.

John and Rhonda, high school sweethearts in 1980, found one another again in 2003, fell back in love, and were married in 2005. Settling in Ashland, they decided to make their dream of a children&

s musical theater come true. &

We wanted to create a venue and an outlet for children to discover their creative spirit.&

As a model, John used John Healy&

s San Jose Children&

s Musical Theatre, where he performed as a youngster.

&

Children&

s theater,&

John said, &

has truly been the most exciting for me. ... We honestly just want to create something exciting for the children, and give the kids a way to express themselves in a fun, professional environment, while learning the craft from talented professionals who share the same vision. Kids in this area need an outlet that isn&

t hyper-competitive theater. Our unique policy, unlike any other theaters in the this area, is that all who complete the audition process are cast in the show.&

He went on to say that he believed that all children should be given the opportunity to be in a professional, quality production, regardless of their current level of talent. Performing in a production like &

Grease,&

he emphasized, develops kids&

sense of self-esteem, responsibility, and creative expression.

&

There truly is magic on the stage when &

145;Grease&

fires up, and I think we&

re seeing some of the new stars of tomorrow on that first Children&

s Musical Theatre of Ashland stage,&

he said.

Jesse Sharpe, 14, who portrays Doody in the &

Grease&

production, when asked what attracted him to performing on the stage, said he enjoys portraying a different character.

&

I like getting a different point of view on life through a character, the different emotions,&

Sharpe said. &

Being on stage can give me an adrenaline rush, especially if I become aware of the audience, though I have to act like the audience isn&

t there.&

The Taylors envision that when CMTA reaches its potential, they will have 1,000 kids a year on stage. &

It&

s incredible to think what we could accomplish for aspiring young performers. We&

re excited to act upon our vision of making Ashland the No. — spot for children on stage.&

Working with CMTA is Aisha Wand, choreographer and owner and director of Ashland-based Danceworks, as well as two well-known area performers, Laura Derocher and David Gabriel, who will serve as theatrical and vocal coaches. John Taylor will produce the musical score for the production.

&

Grease &

The School Version&

will play April 13, 14, 17, 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at The Music Coop, 181 A St., by calling 778-3365, or by mailing a ticket order for desired quantity, dates and payment by check to CMTA/&

Grease&

Tickets, 1454 Ashland St., No. 179, Ashland, OR 97520. Prices are $10 for adults and $7.50 for children 12 and under.

Looking ahead, CMTA will audition for its second production, &

The Wizard of Oz,&

on July 22 and 23 at the Family YMCA. CMTA and the YMCA are partnering for this production, and rehearsals will be from Aug. — through Sept. 17. Performances will be in late September. CMTA will also hold a three-day &

audition camp,&

taught by Aisha Wand and John Taylor. The curriculum will cover how to perform a successful audition, as well as singing, dancing and acting methods, and what the director of a production is looking for.