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CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - You know them. You love them - Sandy Dumbrowski (Kylie Clarke Johnson) and Danny Zuko (Peter Liptak) are back in Grease at Broadway Rose Theatre.


In the musical “Grease,” 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.

In real life, Peter Liptak (who plays Danny) and Kylie Clarke Johnson (Sandy) met playing ball during Softball Saturdays, weekly games popular with metro-area actors. But that’s where any similarity between the real-life actors and the make-believe couple ends: Liptak works as a wedding planner and has an 8-month-old son with his wife, while Johnson works in health care administration and is planning a July wedding.

Liptak, who was born and raised in the Bay Area, said he was bitten by the acting bug when he was 8. His 7-year-old sister Vanessa wanted to audition for “Oliver” and their mom insisted that he go with her.

“We both got roles,” Liptak said. “A year later, we moved to Camas, and because we were home-schooled, we could do more shows. Every year, our mom would pose it to us, ‘Do you want to go to public school or do more plays?’ I didn’t go to public school until my junior year in high school.”

The family moved around because Liptak’s dad was a minister, and after Camas, they moved to Spokane.

“I also did modeling, and as we tried out for shows, one or the other of us would get a major role,” Liptak said of acting with his sister. “At 16, I was cast in ‘The Music Man,’ and due to cast changes after two weeks were added to the show, we ended up playing each other’s romantic interest, which was odd.”

After high school, Liptak worked for two years with Teen Mania, a youth ministry that led cultural immersion trips for teens, teaching English in Nepal, Thailand, Peru, Panama, Mexico and other places.

“It was the best thing I could have done for those two years,” he said.CRAIG MITCHELLDYER - Leather jackets, cool guys and tough chicks will be all the rage once again when Grease opens at Broadway Rose Theatre on Thursday, April 16.

After a stint in Las Vegas, Liptak and Vanessa decided to try their luck in Los Angeles.

“There were so many young and struggling people who formed a bohemian community, and we utilized each other’s contacts, like finding friends to help with a short film,” said Liptak, who also worked at California Pizza Kitchen for eight years. “We would get random gigs, and then I would go back to California Pizza Kitchen.

Liptak later moved to the coast, took up surfing and met his wife Ashley. After they married, they decided to start looking at other places to live.

“We made a big poster board with all the cities we were interested in moving to and weighed all the pros and cons of each one,” he said. “Finally, it got down to New York and Portland ... and we moved in 2012.”

Than, after seeing a two-man show, “Red,” Liptak decided to refocus on acting, auditioned for two shows in 2013 and got them both.

It “forced me to act for the first time in 10 years,” he said.

More acting jobs came along, including Broadway Rose’s “Band Geeks,” where Liptak played a high school student.

“We got pregnant right before ‘Band Geeks’ started,” he said, noting that he took a year off from acting to spend time with Bentley, now 8 months old.

“Since Bentley was born, theater and acting became important to me,” he said. “I don’t want to tell Bentley to ‘follow your dream,’ but I didn’t.”

While Liptak has had no formal training in singing, he pointed out that his dad is a musician and his sister is a singer. Further, he sang in church growing up and now tries to “channel” Frankie Valli or Elvis when he performs.

“The music in this show is super fun,” he said. “I had never seen the play, just the movie, and the stage show has so many more songs. It’s a good balance of singing and dancing.”

After 2-1/2 years as a bartender at McMenamin’s Rams Head pub, he started working as a wedding planner at McMenamin’s Kennedy School in December, a change that has better allowed him to indulge his love of acting.

“It was a huge transition from waiting tables to planning weddings, but every day is a happy occasion,” he said. “I get calls from people who just got engaged. ... So now I work during the day and Ashley and I are home at night except when I’m in a show.”

Liptak credits his co-star Johnson (Sandy) for him getting the role of Danny in “Grease.”

“The only reason I got this part is because I had fun with Kylie,” he said. “We read together at the (audition) call-back, and I just thank her for getting me this part.”

Liptak also credits Broadway Rose co-founders Dan Murphy and Sharon Maroney for “building this great culture around themselves.”

Johnson, meanwhile, grew up on the cusp of the Redwood National Park in Northern California, explaining that she was born in a cabin her parents owned on property surrounded by redwood trees and “our dogs kept the bears away.”

Johnson attended school in nearby Crescent City, and with the population of the entire county under 30,000, her high school graduating class of 216 was the biggest in the school’s history.

“I did lots of dancing growing up, but there was no voice teacher around to teach singing,” Johnson said. “I got involved in community theater when I was 11. They did one big musical every year, and I was in every one until I was 18.

“I always knew I wanted to be on the stage, although fame was never my goal — it takes a lot of hustle to be famous. I just wanted the opportunity to perform. But my parents encouraged my two brothers and me that we should be well-rounded, and I personally felt like I shouldn’t put all my eggs in one basket. My parents have been nothing but supportive and have seen every show I have been in.”

For college, Johnson applied to three Oregon and three California schools and chose Western Oregon University in Monmouth.

“The University of Oregon seemed too big, and I wanted to go where I didn’t know anyone,” Johnson said. “I chose Monmouth because when you walked down the street, everyone smiled at you — that’s why.”

Western Oregon has a musical theater program, and Johnson got a scholarship, later earning a bachelor of arts degree in theater while performing in shows.

“I graduated in 2008 and knew I wanted to move to Portland,” she said. “But I had no money, so I moved home and worked as a substitute teacher in pre-school through high school. Both my parents are teachers and there wasn’t a day I didn’t teach. But after the end of the school year, I moved to Portland.”

She started auditioning and winning roles in shows, starting with her first one, “Bare: A Pop Opera,” and was nominated for a Portland Area Musical Theatre Award.

“I was cast in Lakewood Theatre Company’s ‘Into the Woods’ as Snow White, which is a bit part at the end, but I made good contacts in that show, which led to other things,” Johnson said. “Everything just steamrolled.”

However, she worked at day jobs, too, including Third Rail Repertory Theatre, first serving as an intern for one year and then as the box office manager for two years. The parents of Peter Liptak also worked at the theater, “so I was aware of Peter,” said Johnson, who left that job in early April to start working at Providence Health & Services in insurance.

Her personal life is looking up, too, preparing to marry in July Kyle Owen, a Coos Bay native she met when he was subbing in a band during “Bare.”

“Portland has been so good to me. I always wanted to live here, and I have a good support network. Portland is small enough that it feels like home.”

“Grease” is Johnson’s first Broadway Rose main stage show, but last summer, she played the Genie in its children’s musical production of “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp.”

“I did a production of ‘Grease’ in high school, but I didn’t do a lot of high school theater because I was so involved in community theater,” Johnson said. “I did the general Broadway Rose auditions and got called back for this show. I had a good week in October — I got engaged on a Sunday and got the role in ‘Grease’ on a Tuesday.

“As we started rehearsing and learning the music, I got more and more excited — it’s contagiously exciting. I started listening to the Broadway cast recording — it is stupid good. Sandy is very different from me, although there are some similarities - since October, I’ve been immersing myself in Sandy.”