YORK Light director and choreographer Martyn Knight is so grateful for his assistant director Sue Hawkesworth's contribution to staging Grease after he was struck by a stomach illness.

"Sue has been an incredible support to me for this show. She's worked with me for years – this is my 15th year at York Light and she's done all but one of my shows – but she's had a real baptism of fire stepping in when I contracted a stomach ailment, which carried on for ten weeks," says Martyn, who had started setting Grease in October, but then fell ill.

Another regular commitment was looming too: his 15th year as the dame at Eastbourne’s Devonshire Park Theatre, or in this instance playing Ugly Sister Marge alongside Ugly Sister Flora in Cinderella from December 7 to January 13.

"Having been to hospital and seen a couple of doctors, I thankfully did manage to get through the panto run," says Martyn, who spoke to The Press while "chilling out in Holland after the long pantomime season". He resumed the reins for Grease on his return and tomorrow the York Light production opens at York Theatre Royal.

"It's a show I've done once before with the Darlington Operatic Society about six years ago," says Martyn. "I had all my notes from that production, which I gave to my assistant, Sue, and my assistant from the Darlington show came down to help too, so we've pulled together to get the show on with a young company, with a lot coming through from York Light Youth – and it's great to see young talent blossoming.

York Press:

York Light's cast for Grease soak up the Fifties' vibe at Ed's Easy Diner. Picture: Hannah Carter-Brown

"Like Sarah Craggs, who's playing Sandy. Her sister, Emma, played one of the leads [pushy fiancée Irene Roth] in Crazy For You in 2011, and Sarah has done some ensemble roles for us, so it's nice for her to be doing her first lead now. She and James Horsman, who's playing Danny Zuko, are a couple in real life, so the chemistry is really working!"

Buoyed by the impact of such songs as Greased Lightnin’, You’re The One That I Want, Hopelessly Devoted To You and Summer Nights, Grease's popularity endures with its story of Danny and Sandy, the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies navigating their way through high school.

"It's become like The Rocky Horror Show, one of those shows where people remember queueing up for the film, and that helps so much because everyone remembers John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's performances, the music and the Fifties' designs too," says Martyn. "People love a feelgood musical, and in this day and age it's good to come out of a show feeling uplifted."

Look out for the clothes too "York Light do their own costumes and they're probably the best in the country that I work with." says Martyn. "The attention to detail by the team is always fantastic, going round charity shops and building up a vast wardrobe now. I have no fear in saying that the show will look stunning."

York Light in Grease, York Theatre Royal, February 13 to 23, except Sunday, at 7.30pm, plus February 16 and 23 matinees at 2.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk