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Lodi Theatre for Youth producing 'Nunsense' and 'Grease'

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Posted: Thursday, July 14, 2005 10:00 pm

The Lodi Theatre for Youth is relying on the power of two this summer.

Not only is the nonprofit theater group trying its hand at producing two musicals this year, but it is doing so at two different venues over two weekends.

Nuns and pony-tailed, poodle-skirted girls will take the stage this weekend as the Lodi Theatre for Youth opens "Nunsense" and "Grease" at the Tillie Lewis Theatre at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

Next weekend, they perform at the Charlene Powers Lange Performing Arts Theatre at Hutchins Street Square.

What inspired director Rex Reynolds to take on such an ambitious endeavor?

"Well, the fact that they were both smaller productions and that we had more kids this year," said Reynolds, who notes that 35 children are participating this year, ranging in age from 9 to 18.

That's 10 more than last year.

What also makes it easier: Both plays are performed using the same set. In "Nunsense," the nuns of Mount Saint Helens are doing a benefit production of 'Grease.'"

"It's one of the reasons I paired these two plays," Reynolds said.

Reynolds is assisted this year by choreographer Chuck Garcia and musical director Manny Dayao, a graduate student at the Boston Conservatory of Music, who has gathered a small orchestra for each production.

From left: Jessie Douglas, Elyse Muscha, Brooke McHugh, Adrienn Reynolds, and Annie Marie Yacopetti perform in a dress rehearsal of the play 'Nunsense' on Thursday in the Tillie Lewis Theater at San Joaquin Delta College. (Ryan Harris/News-Sentinel)

The shows are a culmination of an intense six-week musical theater summer camp, which was held at the University of the Pacific's Long Theatre. Students were trained in acting, singing, stage movement, dance and set construction.

They've even been taught how to battle on-stage nervousness with relaxation exercises.

"I'm already nervous," said Adrienne Reynolds, 13, who plays Sister Amnesia in "Nunsense." "But I do my own relaxation exercise, where I jump up and down and get energy around my body."

Reynolds, who has been involved in the Lodi Theatre for Youth since it started five years ago, said that this year's production is one of the most difficult shows she has been cast in.

"I've learned a lot about comedic timing and how to not break character when something is hysterical," she said.

'Nunsense' at a glance

When: Today at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. at Tillie Lewis Theater, Delta College; July 22 at 7:30 p.m. and July 23 at 2 p.m. at Hutchins Street Square.

Summary: A hilarious comedy about the five Little Sisters of Hoboken who run Mount Saint Helen's School. It is heartwarming, hysterically funny and filled with great songs and dance, several of which involve audience participation.

Tickets: $15 for students and seniors, $20 for adults

Information: 954-5110 for Tillie Lewis Theatre shows. 333-5550 for Hutchins Street Square shows.

'Grease' at a glance

When: Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Tillie Lewis Theatre, Delta College; July 23 at 7:30 p.m. and July 24 at 2 p.m. at Hutchins Street Square.

Summary: A 50's musical extravaganza that follows the lives and loves of a group of high school seniors.

Tickets: $15 for students and seniors, $20 for adults

Information: 954-5110 for Tillie Lewis Theatre shows. 333-5550 for Hutchins Street Square shows.

And as "Nunsense" also has an interactive component with the audience, she has also worked on her improv skills.

Amy Strong, 14, was no stranger to the theater. She had been cast in different school plays, but nothing compared to what she has learned her first summer with Lodi Theatre for Youth, she said.

"The biggest thing I learned is not to strain my voice so much," said Strong, who plays Cha Cha DiGregorio in "Grease" and is also dance captain for both productions. "And to project more even though I have a loud voice already."

But beyond the stage, the Lodi Theatre for Youth has provided a place for Lodi area youth to meet and socialize.

"I had only worked with two of the four castmates (of "Nunsense") before, but we've all become fast friends. I can't believe I haven't known them longer," Reynolds said.

Contact Lodi Living Editor Tricia Tomiyoshi at triciat@lodinews.com.

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