(Greased) Lightning Strikes Twice First Travolta to Star in Grease Since Film

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The first Travolta to play the role of Danny Zuko in 'Grease' since John Travolta's appearance in the film is honored by mayor with city holiday.

'Grease' musical theater history will be made February 28, 2003 when recording artist Rikki Lee Travolta takes the stage in the lead role of Danny Zuko for the first of four guest starring appearances to benefit the Round Lake, Illinois community. He will be the first Travolta to play the role since John Travolta’s appearance in the 1978 film adaptation.

Having previously collected for Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, Even Start Literacy Program, and Broadway Cares, the performer founded the Rikki Lee Travolta American Hero Foundation following the September 11th tragedies. He chose Round Lake Beach, Illinois as the administrative headquarters of the foundation. His subsequent involvement in the community led to his agreement to guest star in the 'Grease' production.

"Rikki Lee Travolta is a great role model, an amazing actor, and has an incredible voice that is perfectly suited for this style of music," says 'Grease' director Christi Nicholson, who compares landing the guest star as the theatrical equivalent of Michael Jordan agreeing to play for a local basketball team. Travolta is the highest grossing artist in the history of the Brahma Bull label.

"Fans of the movie will not be disappointed," says Nicholson. With box office receipts over $340 million, the film version of 'Grease' is the highest grossing movie musical of all time and features memorable songs from the stage production including "Summer Nights," "Greased Lightning," and "We Go Together."

Funds raised from Travolta's four performances will be invested in bringing fine arts to the community through park district programs.

To mark the occasion, the mayor of the Village of Round Lake, Bill Gentes, has proclaimed February 28 as "Rikki Lee Travolta Day" in recognition of the star's contributions to the community.

"I am honored to be able to give back to this community," says Travolta of his agreement to guest star in 'Grease.' "If my involvement can raise money and bring fine arts and educational programs to future generations, it's my privilege to do it and a sincere labor of love."

Travolta directs 50% of all proceeds from his novel “My Fractured Life” sold through Amazon.com and TravoltaNet.com to his namesake foundation. He also contributes 50% of all his proceeds from album sales to the foundation. He is also a spokesperson for National Dance Week; previous celebrities who have served as spokespeople include Ben Vereen and Sandy Duncan.

Joining Travolta in the historic 'Grease' event is Jessica Lauren Fisher in the Olivia Newton-John role of Sandy.

"Rikki Lee Travolta has a pure heart," says co-star Fisher of Travolta's civic work. "Rikki Lee is the best person I have ever met."

Fisher appeared in 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' with Donny Osmond and 'Grease' with Debbie Gibson. Travolta and Fisher appeared on duet recordings of songs from the Broadway musical 'Jekyll & Hyde.'

Their duet 'Dangerous Game' was one of only 67 songs from around the world to be included on the nomination ballot in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals field for this year's Grammy Awards.

Travolta and Fisher previously starred opposite each other in the rock musical 'Bye Bye Birdie.'

Hap Ernstein, entertainment reporter for the Palm Beach Post, reported on February 15 that a new film adaptation of 'Bye Bye Birdie' is being fast-tracked based on the success of the Oscar-nominated film adaptation of 'Chicago' by executive producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.

Travolta, who will star in the action film 'Hero Before Dawn' with Michael Dorn (Star Trek Nemesis), has already been given an honorary membership in the Amateur Association of Elvis Impersonators for the authenticity and humor of his national appearances as the Elvis Presley-based Conrad Birdie character. His 2002 album "Hero's Lullaby" includes a blues rendition of Presley's "Jail House Rock."

The storyline of 'Grease' centers around a group of high school teenagers in 1959. The main characters, Danny Zuko (Travolta) and Sandy Dumbrowski (Fisher), find themselves in school together after a brief summer romance.

Featuring a Jim Jacobs-Warren Casey book and score, 'Grease' began in the spring of 1971 as a small amateur production at an out-of-the-way Chicago theater called the Kingston Mines – less than 50 miles from where Travolta will make his historic debut.

By 1972 the musical was on Broadway where it ran for eight years, closing as the longest-running show in Broadway history. The original 1972 Broadway production and a 1994 revival accumulated a combined 10 Tony Award nominations.

During the run of the Broadway revival, which lasted through 1998, Travolta was flown to New York to meet with director Jeff Calhoun regarding interest in having him appear in the production. The revival and its touring company were famous for using celebrity guest stars including Lucy Lawless, Rosie O’Donnell, Peter Scolari, Jon Secada, Brook Shields, Sally Strothers, and Adrian Zmed.

"It was a huge honor to be considered in that field of talent but it just didn’t seem like the right timing," says Travolta, who instead accepted a headlining role in the interactive comedy 'Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.'

Although agent Sam Samuelson of Stewart Talent/Elite Modeling has recently focused on developing Travolta's career as an action figure, the actor got his start on stage and studied improvisation at the famed Second City. Fellow alum George Wendt ironically co-starred in

Meron and Zadan's television adaptation of 'Bye Bye Birdie.'

When Travolta takes the stage as Danny Zuko in 'Grease' on February 28, his name will be added to the list of famous alumni who have played the role over the years including Barry Bostwick, Richard Gere, Patrick Swayze, and Treat Williams.

Performances will take place at the Round Lake Area Panther Auditorium, located at 1 Panther Lane, in Round Lake, outside of Chicago. Over 400 celebrities, entertainment industry executives, and political notables have been invited to the event. Tickets for Travolta's performances are available by calling (847) 546-8558.

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Drake Miezel

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