Theatre Mirror Review"Grease"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2012 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Bishop Hendricken's spring show is the hit 1950's musical, "Grease". It opened off Broadway on February 14, 1972 and ran for 128 performances before moving to Broadway to run for 3,388 record breaking performances, closing April 11, 1980. The show was made into a very successful movie in 1978 starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. The audience is welcomed back to the reunion of Rydell High School's class of 1959. Miss Lynch, the English teacher wants everyone 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 poodle skirts, bobby socks and pedal pushers. This version is directed by Richie Sylvia who also does the musical direction with choreography by Theresa Pearson. This show is high energy from opening to closing with a talented cast of 48.

Richie directs and blocks the show beautifully. He has Miss Lynch open the show with "Alma Mater" in the present day and then the show returns to 1959 with the cast singing and dancing to "Grease Is the Word" from the movie..He gives the audience an authentic feel for the 1950's. Theresa's choreography is seen in "Hand Jive", "Shakin at the High School Hop", "Greased Lightning", "We Go Together" and "The One That I Want" to mention a few. The latter two dances stop the show with the cast's expert execution of her dance moves. Jason Leclair built the two story set which helps facilitate fast scene changes with a topnotch stage crew. The orchestra is on top of the set.

The head hoodlum, Danny Zuko is played by Brian Duranleau. He captures the true essence of the 1950's character as Danny. Brian sings "Summer Nights" where he and Sandy sing a duet about how they met with differing versions sung by each of them, in "Alone at the Drive In Movie" when Sandy walks out on him where he walks through the audience crooning to different women, and in the closing duet "You're the One That I Want". Some of his funniest scenes include when Sandy slams the door on him at the drive-in and when he croons to the audience in the drive-in song, too. Pretty Julia Paolino plays Danny's sweet girlfriend, Sandy. She makes the transition from wholesome girl to trashy Pink Lady with ease at the close of the show. She contemplates this during "Sandra Dee" reprise. Since the show is a musical comedy, the message to change yourself to be accepted by others should be viewed in that context but not in real life. Julia's terrific and powerhouse voice is heard in the poignant, "Hopelessly Devoted" which stops the show and in the closing duet "You're The One That I Want". She also sings the touching "It's Raining on Prom Night" and does a fantastic job with a part from the original show that wasn't as fleshed out as some of the others. She and Brian excel in all their dances, too. The hard hearted leader of the Pink Ladies, Betty Rizzo is played marvelously by Katherine Murphy She shows off her acting range in the comic and dramatic moments in this show. The comic ones include her many one liners and put downs of those around her and making fun of Sandy in the comic version of "Look at Me, I'm Sandra". Rizzo's softer side emerges in my favorite song in the show, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" where she ponders her plight of possibly being pregnant. Scott Shetler's saxophone solo in the song is splendid. Rizzo's hoodlum boyfriend Kenickie is excellently played by Ryan Champlin. I earlier reviewed him as one of the musketeers in "The Three Musketeers" last year. He swaggers about the stage in character and does topnotch work on his solo "Greased Lightning" where he and the boys dance all over the stage and on a real looking car. Ryan and Katherine dance up a storm in the show, too.

Their friends are well portrayed, too. Molly Gregory plays sexy Marty who is in love with a marine. She sings "Freddy My Love" while the girls back her up like the Supremes. Jessica Still is dynamite as Jan who is constantly eating, especially twinkies, cole slaw and other people's lunches. Dane Granja has a powerful voice and is hilarious as Roger who is called rump because he likes to moon people. Jessica and Dane's duet is a hoot. "Rock N Roll Party Queen" is sung beautifully by Roger and Doody. Brendan McNamara plays the nervous Doody wonderfully as he sings "Magic Changes" and is funny when he yells out the names of the notes he is playing for the song. Sonny, the school mooch and cad is well played by Jacob Faria. The school bubblehead, Frenchy drops out of school to go to beauty school is played by Rebecca Herd. One of her funniest moments comes when Teen Angel descends on Frenchy while she is wearing a pink wig. Carlos Rodriguez is splendid as Teen Angel with his strong voice, doing "Beauty School Dropout" while the girls dance to it. Miranda McLean opens the show as Miss Lynch leading "Alma Mater" and does a wonderful job as the authority figure in the show. Rebecca Mallette sings "Raining on Prom Night" with Sandy. Vince Fontaine is played with wonderful smarminess by Sean O'Connor. Vince picks up Marty at the prom, putting the moves on her. Johnny Casino is played by Christian Dessler who sings "Hand Jive". The rah-rah cheerleader Patty Simcox is played by Gabi Levin and nerdy, Eugene is played by Colin Murphy who are excellent dancers as well as the tough talking, dancing dynamo Cha Cha played by Helena Widmann. So for a trip back to the carefree days of the 1950's be sure to catch "Grease".

"Grease" (22 - 25 March)
@ 2615 Warwick Avenue, WARWICK RI
1(401)739-3450 ext. 172

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide