Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Grease"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2004 by Tony Annicone

"Grease"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Reagle Players second show of their 36th season is the hit 1950's musical, "Grease". It opened off Broadway on Feb. 14,1972 and ran for 128 performance before moving to Broadway to run for 3388 record breaking performances, closing April 11, 1980. The show was made into a very successful movie in 1978. The audience is welcomed back to the reunion of Rydell High School's class of 1959. Miss Lynch, the English teacher leads 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 bobby socks and pedal pushers. This version directed by Frank Roberts, vocal direction by Jennifer Honen with Brent Ferguson as conductor and Brian Loeffler recreating Jeff Calhoun's original Broadway choreography is a high energy hit from start to finish with a huge cast of 38 including 10 equity actors. 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. Producer and artistic director Robert Eagle who also founded this group 36 years ago, demonstrates how to present a Broadway type show only 10 miles from Boston. Bravo.

Frank directs and blocks the show very well . The two story set is utilized efficiently by this huge cast and every inch of it has action on it. He clearly defines the characters so you can tell them apart. Frank uses three songs from the movie score with the permission of the authors so a couple of the weaker songs from the play are eliminated. ( Alma Mater, Alone at a Drive-In Movie and I'm All Shook Up are gone and are not missed at all.) Jennifer gets the best harmony in the chorus numbers as well as dynamite solos and duets, too while Brent leads a top notch orchestra. Brian's recreation of the numerous dance numbers are breath taking especially the hand jive number which makes you want to jump out of your seat to cheer at its perfection. Also outstanding is the hula hoop closing of the first act with the cast dancing, singing and twirling the glow in the dark hula hoops in unision in "We Go Together". The show gives the audience an authentic feel for the 1950's with its high production values.

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 Zuko is played perfectly by equity actor, Todd DuBail who has several National Tours and regional credits under his belt. Todd captures the essence of this character. He is also an excellent dancer who gets to show off his powerful voice in "Summer Nights", in "Sandy" when he is left alone at the drive-in (this song shows off his large range) and in the closing duet, "You're the One That I Want". His funniest scene is when he pulls cigarettes out of his gym trunks while running and then lights up while trying to win a race. Kim Brownell plays Danny's sweet girlfriend, Sandy. Also an equity actress, Kim makes the transition from wholesome girl to trashy Pink lady with ease at the close of the show. ( Since it is a musical comedy, the message to change yourself to be accepted by others should be viewed in that context and not in real life.) Kim's voice soars in the poignant "Hopelessly Devoted"(with the scrim lit in blue lights to set the mood) and the closing number with Todd. She does a great job with a part that in the original show is not as fleshed out as the others. The hard hearted leader of the Pink Ladies, Betty Rizzo is played by Joanna Young. She dances up a storm and shows her range as an actress, showing the comic and dramatic moments in this show. Joanna shows her comic side with her one liners and sarcastic put downs of those around her. Her soft side emerges in my favorite song in this show, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" where she ponders her plight of possibly being pregnant.(Loved the sax in this number) She makes fun of Sandy in the funny version of "Look At Me. I'm Sandra Dee" and joins Kim in the serious duet when Sandy realizes she needs to change and Rizzo agrees to help her. Rizzo's hoodlum boyfriend, Kenickie is played by Doug Kreeger. He swaggers about the stage in character and does wonderful work in his solo, "Greased Lightning" where he and the boys dance all over the stage and car while holding flashlights.

Their friends are well portrayed, too. The gorgeous blond, Emilee Dennis, a Massachusetts resident, plays the sexy Marty who is in love with a Marine. She belts out "Freddy My Love" while the girls back her up like the Supremes. (Also three chorus girls with pink wigs join in the song from the top of the stairway.) Joyce Baldwin plays Jan who is constantly eating and Tim Hache plays her boyfriend Roger who is called rump because he likes to moon people. Their duet "Mooning" is hilarious. (Joyce also sings the pretty ballad, "Raining On Prom Night" with Kim (Sandy) during the prom scene.) Rock N'Roll Party Queen is sung by Tim and Michael Murnoch who plays Sonny, the school mooch and cad. D.J. Gregory plays the naive and nervous, Doody who gets to belt out his big number, "Magic Changes" while surrounded by a huge chorus. The school bubblehead, Frenchy who drops out to go to beauty school is played by Amy Shure who makes this dummy a hoot. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Matt Gibson who descends on Frenchy as her Teen Angel and sings "Beauty School Dropout" to try to convince her to go back to high school. His strong baritone voice fills the auditoriu with its power and the final falsetto notes will send chills up your back. (I first saw Matt as Oliver in 1993 and all I can say is wow has he grown into a talented twenty year old.) Another scene stealer is Cheryl McMahon as Miss Lynch. She is a whirlwind who enters from the back of the auditorium, talks to the audience delivers a long monologue to set up the show as well as dance and carry on during the prom scene. Brava. The adult in the show in the show is the smarmy, DJ, Vince Fontaine played by R. Glen Michell. He picks up Marty at the prom and makes out with her. (He also plays records before the show entertaining the audience to welcome them back to the 1950's.)

Some of the other talented cast members include Jesse Sinerate as the annoying, cheerleader, Patty Simcox, Andrew Johnson as Eugene, the nerd (who in this show is an excellent dancer) and Melissa Wells as Cha Cha, the tough dancing chick who wins the dance competition with Danny. Plus numerous chorus members who dance and sing up a storm to make this a fun filled blast from the past. So be sure to catch "Grease" in Waltham to enjoy a trip back to the carefree 1950's.

"Grease" (15 - 24 July)
REAGLE PLAYERS
Robinson Theatre, 617 Lexington Street, WALTHAM, MA
1 (781) 891-5600

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