Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Grease"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2003 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Welcome to the reunion of Rydell High School's class of 1959. We return to the 50's to see the high spirited class of gum chewing, hubcap stealing, hot rod loving boys with D.A.'s and their wise cracking girls in bobby socks and pedal pushers in the rollicking musical, "Grease". Bay Colony Productions presents this popular show which ran on Broadway for 8 years and was made into a very successful movie in 1978. This version directed and choreographed by Marianne Lonati and musically directed by Rob Goldman is a high energy hit with a huge cast of 35. The songs and especially the group dance numbers performed in perfect unison will leave you cheering for the good old days of the 50's.

Marianne's choreography is so specatular with almost the whole cast on stage, it will keep you spellbound at their talent. The dance steps include snippets of so many different dance styles including the twist, the charleston, the jitterbug and many more and some these great numbers are "Alma Mater" Parody, "Magic Changes", Greased Lightning" and "All Choked Up". She chooses the right performer for each of their roles and surrounds herself with talented production people to get the most out of this show. Rob Goldman does a splendid job with not only his direction of the orchestra and the cast but he plays the piano, too. He always gets the best out his cast and orchestra so you know you will hear top notch results from Rob. (His brother, Steve is a chorus member in this show who does many acrobatic flips during the dance numbers. He also has a fantastic singing voice which he used in "My Fair Lady". This is the 35th show Rob and Steve have done together, a very impressive record!) Hard working producer, Bill Cunningham, set designer David DaCosta, lighting designer Michael Teixeira, costume designer, Daniel Kozar and make-up designers, Daniel and Atia Gravely live up to the high standards set by Marianne to keep the authentic 50's look and feel of "Grease".

In the stage version of this show, it is more an ensemble piece than the movie, so the focus is spread out among the various characters in the school. The head hoodlum, Danny Zuko is played by the talented, George Scala III, a sophmore at Suffolk University in Boston. This kid not only dances expertly but he has a wonderful falsetto range which he uses to full advantage in "Alone at the Drive-In Movie". George's dancing is showcased throughout the show and really stands out in "Hand Jive" dance. He also won 4 EMACT awards for his work in theater. Danny's sweet girlfriend, Sandy is played by Melissa Runde, a sixth grade teacher in Sudbury, MA. She makes the transition from wholesome girl to trashy Pink lady with ease at the close of the show. (As Marianne states in her director's notes to change yourself to be accepted by others is not a goal to be looked on favorably and which I agree with wholeheartedly, we have to remember it is a musical comedy and should be enjoyed as such.) Melissa sings beautifully in "Summer Nights" and "All Choked Up, her duets with George but her best numbers are "Raining on Prom Night" duet and "Sandra Dee" reprise which shows off the prettiness and the range of her vocal talents. The hard hearted leader of the Pink Ladies, Betty Rizzo is played fantasically by Casey Ristaino. She also shows the soft side of Rizzo in my favorite song in the show, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do". Casey belts out this dramatic song to the audience while she ponders her plight as maybe being pregnant. She shows her comic side throughout the show with her one liners and sarcastic put downs of those around her. Her strong belter voice is used in the comic number, "Sandra Dee" which brought the house down with sustained laughter and applause. Casey who is also a choreographer, dances up a storm in this show. Kenickie, her boyfriend is played by Christopher Mack. He is a superb athletic dancer who does a split in "Greased Lightning" which will leave you astounded and has danced for the Regency Cruise Lines. (The amazing fact is Chris is 32 years old but with his moves and energy, you will think he is one of the teens.) Chris is also an excellent actor who plays this hoodlum to the hilt and has also appeared in the Jordan's furniture commercial, "Jordan Swings." Christopher's real life girlfriend, Gretchen Hartig plays his dance date, Cha Cha who he dumps once he sees Rizzo there. Gretchen is a gorgeous brunette who not only shows off her fabulous dancing skills but displays her dynamite voice in the "Raining on Prom Night" duet. Her acting as the tough chick from another school and her dance with George is excellent in "Hand Jive". Gretchen who is a senior at Marymount College in NY and Chris will be appearing in "Ragtime" with Bill Cunningham later this summer at Company Theatre in Norwell.

Their friends are played by some outstanding talent, too. Laurie Davis plays Marty who is in love with a Marine and she belts out "Freddy, My Love" while the girls back her up as the Supremes. Chrissy Fresco plays Jan who is constantly stuffing herself with food and Jeff Mahoney plays her boyfriend, Roger who is called Rump because he likes to moon people. Their song, "Mooning" is sung in perfect harmony as is the duet "Rock N'Roll Party Queen sung by Jeff and Greg Hildreth who plays the school mooch and cad, Sonny. Another standout with an incredible tenor voice is 15 year old, Matt Whitman who is only a freshman at Cranston High School West sings "Magic Changes" wonderfully. Sarah Gregonis plays the bubbleheaded, Frenchy who drops out of high school to go to Beauty school. She wears a blond wig and plays this dumb girl beautifully. The biggest scene stealer in this show is Dan Gravely who plays Teen Angel. He enters on a swing ala Mame in the Moon scene. Dan wears a white Tuxedo and wears his hair in a very high D.A., moussed high up on his head. But it is his singing that is out of this world. Not only does Dan possess an incredible tenor voice, he soars off the charts in a superb falsetto in this number, earning him a well deserved ovation. Wow!

The rest of this cast does a beautiful job including Wendy Drescher as Miss Lynch, Sarah Kingsbury as Patty, the cheerleader and Owen Scott as Eugene, the nerd. So for a fun filled, high energy blast from the past, catch "Grease" in Foxboro. You will enjoy the trip back to the 1950's.

"Grease" ( 20 - 29 June)
Orpheum Performing Arts Center, 1 School Street, FOXBORO,MA
1 (508) 543-ARTS

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide