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Southern Florida by John Lariviere


Grease

Grease
Taylor Hicks
RRA Broadway Across America Ft. Lauderdale, along with Nederlander Presentations Inc., Terry Allen Kramer, Paul Nicholas and David Ian, by arrangement with Robert Stigwood, present the 1950s rock 'n' roll musical Grease at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

America's love affair with the 1950s is legendary. Who can forget this nostalgic look at Rydell High School, where good girls in poodle skirts walk alongside the not-so-pure silk-jacketed "Pink Ladies." Nerds in glasses are teased by the tough guy "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. Can the two come together without Sandy losing her sense of innocence and Danny losing his sense of cool? The tale is a familiar one to all.

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.

This production of Grease features 2006 American Idol winner Taylor Hicks in a cameo appearance as Teen Angel. The performance begins with radio show host Vince Fontaine, played by John Travolta look-alike Dominic Fortuna, engaging the audience with patter, and serenading them with songs like "Little Darlin'" and "Run Around Sue" in a crowd-warming pre-show. It finishes with Taylor Hicks singing a song from his latest album after the cast has taken its final bows. This hybrid version of Grease may be especially appealing to those who are fond of the movie version of the musical as it contains four songs written for the 1978 movie not in the original script: "Sandy," "Hopelessly Devoted To You," "You're The One That I Want" and "Grease."

Choreography by Kathleen Marshall and a strong ensemble performance, along with a pretty spectacular-looking car in "Greased Lightnin'" are the real stars of this production. As a director, however, Marshall is relentless in using every possible opportunity to create physical jokes in her staging, referring to the act of sex and the male sex organ. Even the funniest of jokes grows tiresome when it is told repeatedly. Once you have milked the comedy cow please moooooove on. It is difficult to be invested in the outcome of the relationship between Danny and Sandy if it is just about raging hormones. The continual immature sexual references actually weaken the show by making the sincerity of any emotional relationships formed by the couples questionable.

A standout performance is turned in by Brian Crum as Doody. His singing voice soars in "Magic Changes," as he steps into his fantasy complete with adoring fans. Emily Padgett seems to really understand the part of Sandy, as her moment of personal epiphany is acted so clearly in her reprise of "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee." Kelly Felthous does an interesting take on Marty, with a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice. Allie Schulz is sexy and tough as Rizzo. Will Blum, who plays Roger, is a wonderful natural comedian. He plays Roger as the class clown. This take on the role is confusing. Though cool, accepted members of their group of friends, Roger and his female counterpart Jan, are always cast as chubby and slightly awkward. It is their awkwardness and innocence that make it endearing when they pair up in "Mooning." Bridie Carroll, who looks too old for the role, disappointingly plays Jan with no sense of innocence whatever. While Blum has a very good singing voice, he spends so much time imitating a '50s style with false vocal placement that it seems almost condescending. Both actors play their characters as too slick and confident.

The crowd anxiously awaited the appearance of Taylor Hicks. He magically emerges from an ice cream cone atop the diner. In the best scenically designed moment of the night, the ice cream cone descends as backup singers appear amidst a fog of dry ice. It is clear Hicks has had his every gesture choreographed, and is more comfortable singing to, rather than acting with, the others on stage. With that said, he sounds just great, and "Beauty School Dropout" is one of the best numbers in the show. The high energy throughout this production is contagious, and makes this performance of Grease an enjoyable night out.

Grease appeared July 29 - August 2, 2009 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For tickets and/or information on the many diverse offering of the Broward center for the Performing Arts you may contact them at 954-462-0222 or online at www.browardcenter.org. Tickets may also available in person through Ticketmaster by phone at 954-523-3309 in Broward County, in person at Ticketmaster outlets, or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

RRA Broadway Across America - Ft. Lauderdale is presented in arrangement with the Florida Theatrical Association, which is a non-profit, civic organization with a volunteer board of trustees established to ensure the continued presentation of quality national touring Broadway productions in the state of Florida. Broadway Across America is dedicated to creating memorable and accessible theatrical experiences for all guests, selling over five million tickets=2 0to first rate Broadway shows, family productions and other live theatrical events in over 40 North American cities each year. For more information or to purchase tickets through an authorized agent, please visit www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.

Cast:
Danny Zuko: Eric Schneider
Sandy Dumbrowski: Emily Padgett
Kenickie: David Ruffin
Betty Rizzo: Allie Schulz
Roger: Will Blum
Marty: Kelly Felthous
Doody: Brian Crum
Jan: Bridie Carroll
Sonny LaTierri: Nick Verina
Frenchy: Lisa Maietta
Eugene Florczyk: Scot Patrick Allan
Patty Simcox: Erin Henry
Teen Angel: Taylor Hicks
Vince Fontaine: Dominic Fortuna
Cha-Cha DiGregorio: Dayla Perkins
Miss Lynch: Roxie Lucas
Ensemble: Joseph Corella, Ruby Lewis, Preston Ellis, Mark Raumaker, Mike Russo, Jim Jacobs, Brooke Stone, Melissa Larsen, Matthew William Schmidt

Crew:
Director/Choreographer: Kathleen Marshall
Music Director: Tom Whiddon
Scenic Design: Derek McLane
Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Wig & Hair Design: Paul Huntley
Production Stage Manager: B. J. Forman

The actors and stage managers of this production are members of Actors' Equity Association: the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.


Photo: Larry Busacca - Getty Images


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- John Lariviere



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