(NEWS CENTER) - Chelsea Williams started acting as a student at Windham High School. When she was sixteen, she performed in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” a role, she says, that her grandmother “still considers the best thing I’ve ever done.” A year or two later, she was getting paid to act at Point Sebago Resort in Casco. And this summer, she’s getting paid far better to play Sandy Dumbrowski in “Grease” at Maine State Music Theatre in Brunswick.

Making it as a professional actress in musical theatre took a lot of grit. Living in Boston after college, Chelsea worked at a restaurant to pay the rent. She would regularly close up the bar around 11:00 p.m., get on a bus at midnight, arrive in New York City around 4:30, and be one of the first hopefuls in line for a theatre audition. Then it was back on the bus by late morning and home to Boston to work at the restaurant that evening.

Neil Starkenberg, who plays Danny Zuko to Chelsea’s Sandy in this production, followed a different road to theatrical success. Growing up in southern California, he’d head off to auditions only to get stuck on a freeway choked with cars as far as the eye could see. “You would wait for four hours [in traffic] just to get to that one audition,” he says. “And if you were late, you didn’t get to audition.”

The sacrifices must have been worth it, because their enthusiasm for “Grease” is evident. “I’ve never met someone who doesn’t like ‘Grease,’” Chelsea says.

Neil nods his head in agreement. “That’s a red flag if you don’t,” he says.