Theatre Mirror Reviews - "GREASE"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



"GREASE"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



New Bedford Festival Theatre's 27th season's musical is "Grease." It opened off Broadway on February 14, 1972 and ran for 128 performances before moving to Broadway to run for a record breaking 3,388 performances, closing April 11, 1980. It was made into a very successful 1978 movie version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. The audience is welcomed back to 1959 at Rydell High School to celebrate the high spirited days of gum chewing, hub cap stealing, hot rod loving boys with their D.A.'s and their wise cracking girls in their bobby socks and pedal pushers and enjoy the adventures of bad boy Danny Zuko and good girl Sandy Dumbrowski. This new version of "Grease" is directed and choreographed by Michael Susko with musical direction by Juan Rodriguez with a topnotch cast and orchestra. This musical is a high energy hit from start to finish with its multitalented 16 member cast. He casts each of the roles perfectly. The sense of professionalism comes through in the entire presentation with the sets, the lighting and costumes as well as the song and dance numbers that will take your breath away.

Michael blocks and directs the show wonderfully, utilizing the whole theatre. His many dance numbers are spectacular especially the Hand Jive, "Greased Lightening" and "We Go Together." Juan obtains the best harmony in the chorus numbers as well as the solos and duets. His six piece orchestra is fabulous, too. The set is by while the multitude of 1950's costumes are by . Even though the stage show is more of an ensemble piece than the movie, the two leads light up the stage with their talent. The head hoodlum Danny Zuko is played perfectly by tall, dark and handsome, Michael Notardonato. He captures the essence of this character of Danny and displays his powerhouse voice and strong dancing skills, too. Michael's songs include the duet "Summer Nights", in "Alone at The Drive In" when he's left alone at the drive-in, showing off his enormous vocal range and awesome falsetto voice and in "You're the One that I Want." One of his funniest moments comes when he smokes a cigarette while supposedly running a race for the track team. Also funny is when he tries to make out with Sandy and gets hit in the crotch by the car door. Gorgeous blonde, Allyson Duarte is dynamite as Sandy, making the transition from nice wholesome girl into trashy Pink Lady by the end of the show. The message to change yourself to fit into the in crowd should be viewed in the context of a musical comedy and not in real life. Allyson's lovely voice soars all night long in "Summer Nights" duet, in the poignant "Hopelessly Devoted" as well as in the show stopping "You're the One That I Want" with Michael. Allyson and Michael have excellent chemistry together as Sandy and Danny, this young couple from the 1950's which earns them a standing ovation at the curtain call. Bravo on these two multitalented leads.

The hardhearted leader of the Pink Ladies, Betty Rizzo is excellently played by gorgeous brunette, Samantha Johnson who dances up a storm in this role. Her vocal prowess is phenomenal when she sings the comic "Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee" when she makes fun of Sandy and in the heartbreaking, poignant "There Are Worse Things" which brings tears to the eyes of the audience as she ponders possibly being pregnant. Samantha is also a terrific actress who can make you laugh or cry at all the appropriate moments in the show. The saxophone solo in the latter song is spectacular, too. It brings out Rizzo's softer side and is my favorite song in the show. Taylor Wright is also excellent as her boyfriend, Kenickie. I reviewed him last year as Bert in "Mary Poppins" and he returns to tackle this very different kind of character. Taylor has the snarl and swagger down pat for this role and his interactions with the rest of the cast is topnotch, too. His marvelous voice is heard in the show stopping dance number "Greased Lightening" with the boys. They sing and dance over and around the automobile with ease. Taylor and Samantha make these roles their own.

Their friends are excllently played too. Blonde statuesque, Sarah Kawalak plays the sexy Marty who is in love with a marine. Sarah belts out "Freddy My Love" with three girls backing her up ala the Supremes. Marie Rondinello plays the constantly eating Jan while Dom Giovanni plays her boyfriend, Roger who is called Rump because he likes to moon people. Their comic duet "Mooning" stops the show with its hilarity. We get to see him mooning Miss Lynch at the dance in the second act.Dom also sings "Rock and Roll Party Queen" with Doody. Shayne Furtado plays the school mooch and cad, who is constantly in trouble with Miss Lynch. Shayne has many one liners and makes them hit pay dirt all night long. Nicholas Paradiso plays the naive and nervous Doody wonderfully. He belts out his "Magic Changes" to a very appreciative audience. Kelsie Brejcha shines as the class bubble head Frenchy. Frenchy decides to drop out of high school and attend beauty school which is a big mistake. Kelsie is a hoot in this role. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Scott Guthrie as Teen Angel who persuades her to return to high school. He is dressed like Elvis, complete with sunglasses. Scott's awesome tenor voice fills the entire 1226 seat theater with it power and punch. His final falsetto notes will send chills up your spine.

Another scene stealer is Staci Morin as Miss Lynch. She is hilarious as she runs roughshod over the students especially Sonny. She becomes a horny old broad, hitting on Vince during the dance. Staci uses her strong soprano in the Alma Mater and also dances up a storm in "We Go Together" at curtain call. Another adult in this show is Bobby Sylvia as Vince Fontaine and before the show talks to the audience and brings nine people to a twist off contest. At this performance a couple from Fort Lauderdale competed and Josh proposed to Danielle onstage. He plays the smarmy D.J. to the hilt by trying to hit on Marty at the Prom. Other talented cast members include Josh Boucher as Eugene, the nerd who is an excellent dancer in this show, pretty brunette Sarah Pothier as Patty Simcox, the annoying cheerleader who has crush on Danny and Toni Greca as Cha Cha, the tough dancing chick who wins the contest with Danny. Scott Guthrie also plays Johnny Casino who stops the show with the energetic dance number "Hand Jive." I first reviewed Scott as Jerry in "Full Monty at Theatre by the Sea in 2010. So for a fabulous rendition of "Grease", be sure to return to the carefree days of the 50's at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center. Tell them Tony sent you to Hand Jive with this talented Festival Theatre cast before they dance their way out of town.

GREASE (22 to 31 July)
New Bedford Festival Theatre @ The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, 684 Purchase St, New Bedford, MA
1(508)994-2900 or www.nbfestivaltheatre.com




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