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Pittsburgh by Ann Miner


Grease

Grease
Tyler Maynard (Doody) and Cast
Grease, the rocking, slightly naughty 1950s musical, is making a subdued appearance on the Benedum stage in the second CLO production of the season. The show, with book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, made a big splash on Broadway in 1972 in a production that ran 3388 performances. A hugely popular, though sweetened, film version followed in 1978 and the piece has stayed alive through a Broadway revival and countless regional and community theatre productions. With roles for young performers (as well as a showpiece part for a former teen heartthrob and a plum role for a character actress), catchy rock numbers, and a plot out of a '50s movie, Grease has grabbed the hearts of musical fans of all ages.

In this production, a talented cast ebbs and flows through the brief (two hours including intermission) show, with some scenes showing warmth and energy and others landing with a thud. The cast is over-amplified by head mikes, yet in many solo numbers the lead singers pick up large, cordless hand microphones which seem out of place and ineffective. Worth seeing are a few standout supporting players who bring out the heart and verve of this show. It would have been beneficial to shrink the stage a big with a different set design as even the group numbers seem lost on the expanse of the Benedum stage.

Saving the evening are a few fine performances and gem scenes. In the lead roles of squeaky clean Sandy Dumbrowski and bad boy Danny, who meet over the summer and battle each other's "cool factor" to get back together once in school at Rydell High, Amanda Watkins and Ryan Silverman are well cast. Good looking, with solid voices, they have little to do with the blandly written characters until the end of the show, but they deliver when called upon. Ellen Harvey does a nice job with the comedic role of Miss Lynch, the teacher who scares even the tough guys. Amanda Serkasevich plays Grease's hussy, Rizzo, with more substance than is often the case and she nails a showstopping "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" in the second act.

The most refreshing performances, however, are delivered by Tyler Maynard as Doody and Alisa Klein as Frenchy. The stage lights up when either of these two is in the spotlight. Maynard is completely charming in "Those Magic Changes" (with no hand mike) and he and Curtis Holbrook (another standout) as Roger make "Rock 'n' Roll Party Queen" a highlight. Adrian Zmed does a fine job with the showy role of Teen Angel.

Barry Ivan's choreography is disappointing and not performed well by the ensemble, but the "Hand Jive" number is lively and works well - if only the rest of the show were up to that level.

Grease runs through July 2 at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh. Visit www.pittsburghclo.org/ for ticket and performance information.


See the current Schedule of Pittsburgh Theatre.


-- Ann Miner

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