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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Grease

Also see John's review of Still Untitled

GreaseLake Worth Playhouse presents the 1950s rock 'n' roll musical, Grease. Written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, the original production of Grease opened at the Eden Theatre in downtown Manhattan on February 14, 1972. It moved to Broadway on June 7, 1972, where it completed a record-setting 3,388-performance run. The production received three Tony Awards. A Broadway revival opened on May 11, 1994, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and ran for 1,505 performances, receiving one Tony Award. A second Broadway revival opened on August 19, 2007, closing after 554 performances. The 1978 film version, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, received five Golden Globe Award nominations in 1979 and was the highest grossing movie of 1978 in the US.

The musical is set in 1959 at fictional Rydell High School, loosely based on William Howard Taft High School in Chicago. The story revolves around a group of silk-jacketed girls called The Pink Ladies, and their male counter parts, the bad-boy T-Birds clad in tight jeans and T-shirts. Good girl Sandy Dumbrowski moves into town and falls for the leader of the T-Birds, Danny Zuko. The tale is a familiar one to all. Anyone attending a karaoke bar or party would be hard pressed to avoid someone singing "Summer Nights." America's fondness for the '50s and the story of Danny and Sandy lives on in Grease.

This production of Grease features a cast that largely is the real age of the characters. While this adds authenticity, the show reflects the overall lack of maturity and experience of the performers. A standout performance is turned in by Kaitrin Lynch as Rizzo. She acts and sings "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" with believable conviction, and is very consistent throughout the show. It is the best moment of the evening. Shane Blanford is without question the strongest dancer in the show. As Kenickie, he plows through "Greased Lightning," hitting all the high notes and punching lyrics frequently lost in the flurry of the song. In numbers when he is not the center of attention, however, he tends to morph into a theme park performance style that pulls focus unnecessarily. As Doody, a young Rio Peterson sings the song "Those Magic Changes" nicely, but is still discovering his acting ability. Cameron McKay as Roger sings "Mooning" well, but again comes across as inexperienced. Nicole Minardi is perfectly cast as his counter part, Jan. Hopefully this is a part she will get to play again.

Allison Wilson's performance is lacking a sense of joy and passion as Sandy Dumbrowski, and though we believe that Danny likes her, we never believe she likes him until the end. Wilson has a promising voice, but does not know what to do with it, as her vocal placement and color change throughout her performance, and her harmony in "It's Raining on Prom Night" is painfully flat. Robert Martes is cast a bit against physical type as Danny, but as none of the men in the cast are naturally physically imposing, he manages to pull it off with attitude. He is definitely a stronger actor than Wilson, but needs to step up to the plate vocally, as he is lacking volume and support.

Though the music is played well, and the choreography makes good use of the space and talent available, the production values for Lake Worth Playhouse' Grease are disappointing. The set is barely there, and the addition of rolled-on, fabric covered screens adds nothing. The costumes seem thrown together as they are lackluster and sometimes inaccurate (for instance, Kenickie's low rise jeans). While Grease is a show about an average high school, the performance quality should not seem as if it is that of an average high school production. Unfortunately, in this case, it does.

Grease will appear through August 1, 2009 at the Lake Worth Playhouse. The theatre is located at 713 Lake Ave. in Lake Worth, Florida. The Lake Worth Playhouse is a Resident Community Playhouse. Performance times are Thursdays, Fridays at 8:00 PM Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 2:00 and 7:00 PM. For tickets and/or more information about the theatre and its programs, you may contact them by phone at 561-586-6410 or online at www.lakeworthplayhouse.org.

Cast:
Danny Zuko: Robert Martes,br>Sandy Dumbrowski: Allison Wilson
Kenickie: Shane Blanford
Rizzo: Kaitrin Lynch
Doody: Rio Peterson
Roger: Cameron C. McKay
Sonny LaTierri: Nikolas Polanis
Frenchy: Katherine "Katie" Loretta McBroom
Jan: Nicole Minardi
Marty: Melea Trindade
Cha Cha: Jennifer Wysong
Eugene Florczyk: Daniel Perez
Patty Simcox: Gabriella Meister
Vince: J. Paul Heiner
Johnny Casino/Teen Angel: Conor Walton
Miss Lynch: Jeanne McKinnon

Crew:
Director/Choreographer: Rob Dawson
Music Director: Toni Stamos
Scenic Design: Norma Dobrikow O'Hep
Lighting Design: Josh Gumbinner
Costumes: Carlos Toro
Stage Manager: Phyllis A. Cafarelli


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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