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Broadway Rose sells out Broadway hit

Forest Grove native lands role in Tigard playhouse production

COURTESY PHOTO: CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - Forest Grove native Justin Canfield is up for the challenging dance and music scenes in Broadway Rose's production of 'Grease.' He's front and center here in the hat and leather jacket. It was the era of drive-ins, slicked-back hair, hip-shaking tunes, pedal pushers and convertibles. At least that’s how “Grease” makes the 1950s look.

And Tigard’s Broadway Rose Theatre Company’s cast makes “Grease” look like a real hit.

In this ever-popular musical, high school students Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski meet and hit it off during the summer of 1959, then reconnect when Sandy starts attending Danny’s high school in the fall. Sandy joins the Pink Ladies and inevitably runs into the T-Birds, Danny’s group.

Forest Grove native Justin Canfield rounds out the cast as one of Danny Zuko’s gang, Sonny.

The production has been garnering rave reviews (see sidebar) and sold out inside the Broadway Rose New Stage Theater — which holds around 270 — its first two weekends.

Opening weekend “went amazing,” said Canfield. “It’s just a nice environment [at Broadway Rose]. I think there’s a stereotype of more professional actors being snotty or looking down their nose at you, but that’s not the case. They are all the nicest people, always looking to help each other out.”

This isn’t Canfield’s first production with Broadway Rose. He landed parts in a few of the company’s children’s productions, “Snow White” and “The Jungle Book.” Now he’s back working with one of his all-time favorite directors, Annie Kaiser, who he describes as “very talented, very passionate and kind and straightforward in the way she gives direction.”

Canfield is a fan of the fast-paced, intense rehearsal and training process at Broadway Rose. The cast has been rehearsing for months — nearly every weeknight evening — and eight hours every Saturday and Sunday.

But it was back at Theatre in the Grove in Forest Grove that Canfield caught the theater bug. He performed in “The Hobbit,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Coyote Steals Fire” while he was still attending Forest Grove High School.

Canfield went off to the University of Oregon, where he majored in music education and participated in the marching band. Now 27 years old, Canfield is back at the family business, Forest Grove Business Solutions, and enjoying every minute on stage.

“The whole show is fun,” Canfield said. “It’s intensely dance-heavy. You’re just dripping with sweat at the end.”

Canfield particularly enjoys the hand jive, and the singing as well, although he’s relieved that he doesn’t have his own song to perform solo. “It’s nice to be there without the pressure of having my own song,” he said.

While Sonny is one of the smaller roles in the show, Canfield’s character is rich. “I like being able to tap into a different part of who I am in a different part of my brain and explore,” Canfield said.

“Grease” is playing at the Broadway Rose New Stage Theater in Tigard through Sunday, May 24, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (plus Wednesday May 6, 13 and 20), and at 2 Saturday and Sunday afternoons with a special 2 p.m. performance Friday, May 1.

Production gets two thumbs up

News-Times reviewers saw “Grease” on opening weekend and seem to agree with the hundreds of theater patrons heading to Tigard for the 1950s-set classic, selling out shows. Here’s what they had to say.

From the opening notes of the Rydell Alma Mater sing-along — a masterful touch to ensure audience engagement — to the finale, a thoroughly multi-generational Broadway Rose audience was cheering even louder than head cheerleader Patty Simcox.

Peter Liptak as “Danny” and Kylie Clarke Johnson as “Sandy” are at their best when performing together — their duet leads on “Summer Nights” and “You’re the One That I Want” are flawless, and beautifully supported by a typical Broadway Rose “power ensemble.” The parallel couple, Max Artsis as “Kenickie” as and Claire Rigsby as “Rizzo” get the most interesting story line and some of the show’s best songs.

“Greased Lighting,” Kenickie’s big vocal number, is a triple threat — pulsing lead and ensemble vocals, clever staging, and impressive (if punishing) athleticism.

However, the show’s single finest moment is unquestionably Rigsby’s heart-wrenching delivery of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” We’ve seen countless productions of “Grease” through the years, and have never seen the song performed more convincingly.

“Beauty School Dropout” is an iconic number that is sometimes given more attention than it’s worth. However, the lighting, direction, staging and unbelievable vocal by “Teen Angel” Collin Carver exceeded our jaded expectations by a mile — and “Frenchy,” played by Emma Holland, is suitably overwhelmed by his advice. It would be criminal to overlook “Mooning” — a spectacular performance by Bryce Earheart as “Roger,” whose falsetto soars as he climbs the bleachers.

“Grease” done right is definitely a dancer’s show, and this production definitely gets it right. It’s not surprising, since director and choreographer Jacob Toth was assistant choreographer for the show’s most recent Broadway revival. The big dance-themed numbers like “Born to Hand Jive” and “Shakin’ at the High School Hop” are complemented by a steady flow of dance integrated into practically every song; we suspect that many of the actors will be nursing hidden bruises for weeks from all the high energy leaping and sliding.

— Tina Arth and Darrell Baker


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