Theatre Mirror Reviews-"Grease"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone


A Review by Tony Annicone

The current show at Footlights Repertory Company 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 3388 record breaking performances, closing April 11,1980. The show was then made into a successful movie in 1978. The audience is welcomed back to Rydell High School's class of 1959. Miss Lynch, the English teacher welcomes everyone to celebrate the high spirited days of gum chewing, hub cap stealing, hot rod boys with D.A.'s and their wise cracking girls in bobby socks and pedal pushers. "Grease" is filled with youthful energy, music and dance as we follow Danny and Sandy and their loony cast of friends as they navigate their school year filled with teen romance and angst. This version is directed by Sue Nedar with music direction by Eli Bigelow and choreography by Brian Pereira and with their expertise, the show is a high energy hit with the audience from start to finish, winning them a standing ovation at the close of the night.

Sue blocks and directs the show wonderfully utilizing the whole playing area. She clearly defines each character so you can tell them apart. Eli obtains fabulous harmonic blend from the cast in their musical numbers. Brian's choreography is breathtaking including "Magic Changes", "Greased Lightning", "Hand Jive" and "We Go Together". They are so entrancing it makes you want to jump out of your seat to join in the merriment. The male dancers are spectacular dancing in perfect unison all night long. 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 played perfectly by Daniel Guay. Daniel captures the essence of the character with his strong line delivery. He also is an excellent singer and dancer. Daniel displays his powerful voice in "Summer Nights" with Sandy and the boys and girls, in ""Alone in a Drive-In Movie" when he's left alone at the drive-in which displays the large range of his vocal prowess, and in the closing duet "I'm All Choked Up''. He has many comic moments throughout the show. Kelsey Parent plays his sweet girlfriend, Sandy who transforms herself to win him. However since this is a musical comedy the message to change yourself to be accepted by others should be viewed in that context and not applied to real life. Kelsey sings in "Summer Nights", in "Hopelessly Devoted", "It's Raining on Prom Night" with fabulous soloist Tyler-Lynn Tavares, and in "I'm All Choked Up".

The hard-hearted leader of the Pink Ladies is Amanda Morte as Betty Rizzo. She dances up a storm as Rizzo and displays her range in the comic and dramatic moments of the show. Amanda shows her comic side with her one liners and her sarcastic put downs of those around her. Rizzo's softer side comes through in my favorite song "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" where she ponders the plight of possibly being pregnant. The sax solo is this number is terrific. Amanda shows her comic side in "Look at Me I'm Sandra Dee" where she pokes fun at Sandy's wholesome behavior. Rizzo's hoodlum boyfriend, Kenickie is excellently played by Chris Benevides. He has the snarl and the swagger down pat in this role. He and the boys do a marvelous dance during his dynamite number "Greased Lightening'' which stops the show.

Their friends are well played, too. Gorgeous brunette Kasey Jeronimo plays the sexy Marty who is in love with a marine. Kasey belts out "Freddy My Love" with three girls backing her up ala the Supremes. Pretty brunette Stefani Lawton plays the constantly eating Jan while Alex Benevides plays her boyfriend Roger who is called rump because he likes to moon people. Their hilarious duet "Mooning" stops the show with its hilarity. "Rock N' Roll Party Queen" is sung by Roger and Doody. Sonny, the school mooch and cad, is played by Diogo Ventura. He always gets in trouble at school. Diogo is fabulous in this part, making every one of his funny lines hit pay dirt. Nikos Koutsigiannis plays the naive and nervous Doody perfectly and he belts out his number "Magic Changes" with the boys and girls doing a magnificent pelvic thrusting dance that stops the show. The school bubblehead, Frenchy who drops out of Rydell to go to Beauty school is played by Trisha Rodrigues who makes this dummy a hoot. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is John Tavares who appears as her Teen Angel to convince her to return to high school. John's strong baritone voice fills the theater with its power and the final falsetto notes will send chills up your spine.

The other cast members are topnotch, too. Hen Zannini plays Miss Lynch the English teacher beautifully as she welcomes the audience back to the reunion, she also reprimands Sonny later on in the show. She wins many laughs with her comic antics. Another adult is Stefan Amaral as DJ Vince Fontaine who picks Marty up at the prom and makes out with her. Ally Ellison is marvelous as the annoying cheerleader, Patty Simcox,  as is Joel Salamon as Eugene the nerd and Vanessa Medeiros as Cha Cha the girl Danny brings to the dance. All three of them are fabulous dancers. Matthew Pacheco does a great job singing "Born to Hand Jive" as Johnny Casino. Kudos to the whole cast and crew for bringing this fun filled 1950's musical treat to life. Hard working stage manager Diane Durand keeps things running smoothly all night long. So be sure to catch "Grease" by Footlights Repertory Company before they dance their way out of town. Tell them Tony sent you to witness some of the best choreography around.

"Grease" (29 May - 1 June)
@ Kickamuit Middle School, 525 Child Street, WARREN RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide