Theatre by the Sea's second musical of their 81st season is the hit 1950's musical "Grease". It opened off Broadway on February 14, 1972, ran for 128 performances before moving to Broadway to run for a record breaking 3,388 performances, closing April 11, 1980 and was made into a very successful 1978 movie. The audience is welcomed to Rydell High School to celebrate the high spirited days of gum chewing, hubcap stealing, hot rod loving boys with D.A.'s and their wise cracking girls in their bobby socks and pedal pushers and enjoy the adventures of bad boy Danny and good girl Sandy. This new version directed and choreographed by Kevin P. Hill with musical direction by Michael Moise III, is a high energy hit from start to finish with a multitalented cast. The sense of professionalism comes through in the entire presentation with the sets, lighting and costumes as well as the songs and dance numbers which will take your breath away.
Kevin directs and blocks this show wonderfully, utilizing the whole playing area. His many dance numbers are spectacular especially the Hand Jive, "Greased Lightening" and "We Go Together". Mike obtains the best harmony in the chorus numbers as well as dynamic solos and duets. His orchestra is topnotch, too. I first reviewed Mike as a musical director back at LaSalle High School in 2009 for "High School Musical 2". The yearbook set with a storybook unfolding for every scene change, keeps the scenes moving smoothly by Nathan Bertone is marvelous as are the multitude of gorgeous 1950's costumes by David Cabral especially comical are the wigs with hairdryers attached to them for the Beauty School number.
Even though the stage version is more of an ensemble piece than the movie, the two leads light up the stage with their talent.The head hoodlum Danny Zukko is played perfectly by Zach Trimmer. He captures the essence of this character and displays his powerhouse voice and strong dancing skills, too. Zach's songs include "Summer Nights", in "Sandy" when he's left alone at the drive-in movie and displays his enormous vocal range, and in the closing duet "You're the One That I Want". One of his funniest scenes is when he pulls a cigarette out of his crotch while running a race on the track team. I reviewed Zach last season as Jean Michel in "La Cage Aux Folles". Danny shows his versitility as an actor who is able to play many different types of roles. Gorgeous blonde Becca Andrews is dynamite as Sandy, making the transition from wholesome gal to trashy Pink lady at the close of the show. The message to change yourself to be accepted by the in crowd should be viewed in the context of a musical comedy and not in real life. Becca is one of the best Sandy's I have ever seen. She is terrific in "Summer Nights", her voice soars in the poignant "Hopelessly Devoted" as well as the show stopping "You're The One That I Want" with Zach. Becca and Zach have great chemistry as this young couple from the 1950's, winning them a standing ovation at the close of the show.
The hard hearted leader of the Pink Ladies, Betty Rizzo is played by Chloe Fox. She sings "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" when she makes fun of Sandy and "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" where she ponders her plight of possibly being pregnant. The saxophone is spectacular in this number. Rizzo's hoodlum boyfriend, Kenickie is excellently played by Chris Stevens. He swaggers about the stage in character and has terrific interactions with his fellow performers. Chris stops the show with his number "Greased Lightening" where he and the boys sing and dance over the whole stage and car. Chris is gangbusters in this role. I last reviewed Chris as the dynamic Rum Tum Tugger in "Cats" last season at TBTS.
Their friends are well played, too. Jenna Rubaii plays the sexy Marty who is in love with a Marine. Jenna belts out "Freddy My Love" with three girls backing her up ala the Supremes. Mimi Scardulla plays the constantly eating, Jan while Aaron Fried plays her boyfriend, Roger who is called Rump because he likes to moon people. Their hilarious duet "Mooning" stops the show with its hilarity. Aaron also sings "Rock N' Roll Party Queen" with Doody. Chris Kane plays the school mooch and cad, Sonny who is constantly in trouble with Miss Lynch. Chris has many one liners and makes them hit pay dirt. Joshua Charles Shurnik plays the nervous and naive Doody and he belts out his "Magic Changes" wonderfully. The class bubble-head Frenchy is excellently played by Elizabeth Flanagan. Frenchy decides to drop out of high school and attend beauty school which is a big mistake. Elizabeth is a hoot in this role. One of the biggest scene stealers is Matthew Alexander as Teen Angel who appears to persuade her to return to high school. His strong baritone voice fills the theatre with its power and the final falsetto notes will send chills up your spine.
Another scene stealer is Birdie Katz as Miss Lynch. She is hilarious as she runs rough shod over the students especially Sonny. Another adult in this show is J.P. Ferragamo as the smarmy D.J. Vince Fontaine who tries to pick up Marty. Other talented cast members include Jimmy Larkin as Eugene, the nerd who is an excellent dancer in this show, Amanda Paige as Patty Simcox, the annoying cheerleader who has a crush on Danny, Sara Gallo as Cha Cha, the tough dancing chick who wins the dance contest with Danny and Darren Bunch as Johnny Casino who sings the energetic dance number, "Hand Jive". Opening night at Theatre by the Sea isn't complete without the delicious buffet at the after the show party at the Bistro by the Sea by Duane Crowe and his lovely wife, Karleen. It's hard to believe this is the 42nd year that I have been attending shows at Theatre by the Sea. So for a fabulous rendition of "Grease", be sure to return to the carefree days of the 1950's in Matunuck. Tell them Tony sent you to Hand Jive with this talented cast before they dance their way out of town