Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
The Olney Theater Center has kicked off their new season with the popular musical, Grease. This perennial favorite is set in the 1950s and focuses on the lives and loves of the students at Rydell High School.
The show centers on a young couple, Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski. After a summer romance, the pair is surprised to find that they are both attending Rydell. Love may bloom again, but there is a hitch. Danny runs with the "cool" crowd. Dating a "good girl" like Sandy would hurt his reputation. Urged on by friends, the two separate and spend the rest of the show trying to find their way back to each other.
The rousing score by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, is reminiscent of old '50s standards. Even those who are only familiar with the 1978 film will recognize songs such as "Greased Lightning" and "Summer Nights."
Unfortunately, this production does not work. For the most part, this is due to the cast. Many members of the cast are experienced actors. However, their experience does not show in this production. Though some of the musical numbers are enjoyable, many of the performances are just plain sloppy. The result is a production that is more akin to a well-produced high school play rather than a professional regional production.
Fortunately, there are a few shining stars among the cast. Brad Nacht as Roger brings energy and life to an otherwise one-dimensional character. Veteran DC area actor, JJ Kaczynski, is wonderfully cheesy as Vince Fontaine, the DJ on the make. But Michael Sharp's portrayal of the Teen Angel ultimately steals the show. Another veteran of DC stages, Mr. Sharp's performance of "Beauty School Dropout" provides a shot of adrenaline to the production.
Although lacking, the greatest strength of the show is still in evidence - its memorable score. You can still catch those great tunes through March 31st.
Olney Theatre Center
Miss Lynch: KathleenCoons