Regional Reviews: Cincinnati
The latest production by La Comedia Dinner Theatre, located between Dayton and Cincinnati in Southwest Ohio, is Grease. This version, based on the original 1972 Broadway script rather than the more famous movie, suffers from a lack of the flair and style found in the big screen translation. The cast and crew also seem a bit unsettled thus far, but this hopefully will improve with additional performances.
Grease is the story of the 1959 graduating class of Rydell High. The kids are concerned mainly with being cool, "scoring" with the opposite sex, and making it through their final year. New kid on the block, Sandy, is surprised to find out that her summer boyfriend, Danny, is a student at Rydell. Danny, however, shuns goody-two-shoes Sandy in front of his friends to protect his reputation as a rebel. Eventually, with the help of the Pink Ladies and the Burger Palace Boys, the respective "gangs", the pair ends up together and all is well at Rydell High.
The first major problem with Grease is the less than satisfactory script for this version. Though it may not be fair, it is difficult not to compare the film with the stage rendition. Major alterations were made for the film of the musical, almost all to its benefit. The movie greatly expanded the weak stage plot lines and more fully developed many of the characters who are little more than cartoon characters in this production. Grease as performed at La Comedia is much more of a generic nostalgia trip than a solid book show.
In addition, the score to the pre-movie Grease is often dull. Film numbers such as "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "Sandy," "You're the One That I Want," and "Grease" are missing from the stage production. Many songs such as "Freddy My Love," "It's Raining On Prom Night," and "Those Magic Changes" which are featured in the musical are uninteresting, and were relegated to background music for the screen adaptation. Most of the songs fail to advance the plot and are simply period-style material. The best songs within the score, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey (who are also credited with the book), are "Summer Nights," "Born To Hand-Jive," "Beauty School Dropout," and "We Go Together".
In the leading roles of Danny and Sandy, Kyle Redd and Rebecca Johnson perform admirably. Both turn in appropriate portrayals and handle the singing requirements well. The large supporting cast brings the required energy, humor, and talent to the show as well. It does appear as though some actors needed additional time to feel fully comfortable in their roles on press night, but additional performances should remedy the problem.
Director/Choreographer Dennis Edenfield supplies fun and lively dances for his cast, and the show has an appropriate tone. However, many of the transitions between scenes were poorly executed, and the pacing is in need of fine-tuning. There is also an inconsistency in accents that should be addressed.
The show is given a simple design by Matthew J. Evans, with one large unit set and other smaller pieces used to convey the change of location for each scene. There were problems with the sound on press night, and the transfer of sets during scene changes was sometimes rough. The costumes by Jane Sizemore and Jody Williams are suitable.
Grease is not one of La Comedia's stronger productions, due in large part to the source material. While there are enjoyable moments and some fine performances, audience members expecting to see a stage version of the film may be disappointed. Grease runs through June 30, 2002, and tickets can be ordered online at www.lacomedia.com or by phone at 1-800-677-9505.