Arts & EntertainmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Playwright Brings a Taste of Dinner Theater Back to Westchester

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Members of the grown-up Tea Burds in Hanging Cow Productions’ “Greased Lightning: A Comedy High School Reunion,” a spoof of the popular musical set in the 1950s, which is being presented on Friday as a dinner theater at Taormina Trattoria in Peekskill. The show, written by local playwright Elise Milner, takes a look at what may have happened to the main characters from the musical at middle age.

Elise Milner has been bringing back morsels of dinner theater to northern Westchester – while having a blast getting it done.

Milner, a Mohegan Lake-based playwright and founder of Hanging Cow Productions, which present professional theater including Off-Broadway productions in Manhattan, is presenting the next in a series of comedic interactive dinner theater shows this Friday evening at Taormina Trattoria in Peekskill.

The production, “Greased Lightning: A Comedy High School Reunion,” is a spoof of the popular musical where the key characters return for a reunion some 30 years later. Milner had fun writing the show back in 2009, giving hilarious names to the main characters who were part of the Tea Burds and Punk Ladies, and devising a storyline for how Candie (instead of Sandy) and Danny fared when they reached middle age.

“It’s about 15 years since I’ve done some of these but I’m bringing them back and it’s really fun for people,” Milner said. “It’s really great fun for the community. There’s not a lot of these (dinner theater) places anymore because theater doesn’t come up here anymore; Westchester Broadway Theatre closed. So it’s really up to us little guys to keep this in our community.”

The “Grease” parody follows two additional productions over the winter at Taormina that also featured sidesplitting spoofs that Milner had written of other popular productions – “My Big Fat Geek Wedding” and “Souprano FUNeral,” a humorous take on everyone’s favorite mobster family.

For Friday’s production, Milner gets to make the characters come alive again and puts her spin on how the old gang may have ended up.

“Because we don’t really know what happened to the “Grease” characters, I get to imagine and make these really fun situations 30 years later or whatever, like where are they now,” she said.

“But also, you’re going to feel the nostalgia because the character names are similar,” Milner added.

There is the opportunity for interaction with the audience, as the people in attendance play the alumni of the main characters of the show. However, participation is optional, so if someone doesn’t want to be involved in the show for whatever reason, the actors move on and find patrons who do, she said.

The production of “Greased Lightning: A Comedy High School Reunion” interacts with the audiences. The spoof of the popular musical takes a look at may have happened to the main characters from the musical later in life.

The restaurant’s party room where the shows have been held seats 60 to 75 patrons for each event. Tickets are $85 for the evening, which starts at 8 p.m. Diners will have a choice of three entrees. Previously, the evenings featured a buffet, Milner said.

While Milner’s company continues to produce shows in Manhattan, she finds venues in Westchester to put on local live theater and do her part to entertain audiences close to home using local actors. In October 2022, she presented five performances of her show “Angels Among Us” at Yorktown Stage.

“I love doing them up here because I can be so close to my community,” she said. “It’s really, as you know, community is like everything.”

With the seating limitations at Taormina, Milner is exploring other venues in northern Westchester and Putnam County for dinner theater opportunities, although she intends to keep her alliance with Taormina. She plans on presenting a fourth parody in the summer that pokes fun at the Academy Awards.

While “Grease” has always been about a nostalgic look at the ‘50s, Milner does sprinkle in some more adult-themed content than what the show or movie provided, so it may not be appropriate for minors. However, she assures audiences there is no cursing.

For more information about Hanging Cow Productions and reservations for Friday’s show can be made only through Taormina Trattoria is located at 59 Hudson St. in Peekskill a short walk from the Metro-North train station.




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