'Grease' a fun romp through 50s high school days

Posted Friday, July 21, 2017 in Culture

'Grease' a fun romp through 50s high school days

School dance from "Grease", now showing at Maine State Music Theatre. Photo by Roger Duncan.

by Gina Hamilton

"Grease", now showing at Maine State Music Theatre at the Bowdoin campus in Brunswick, was an unexpected delight.

This reviewer had seen the film, but never the stage version of the production, and is pleased to report that the in-person show is a lot more fun and lighthearted than the film version. And the dancing is better.

Those of you who have read my reviews of Maine State Music Theatre productions over the years know that the easiest way to warm the cockles of my heart is to choreograph great dance numbers because, whether the show is based on a historic novel about the French Revolution's aftermath, a children's novel about going home to Kansas, or whether the show is based on a classic musical comedy (and I do so love the classics!) if the dance is great, I'm on the edge of my seat.

The dance was good enough in Grease to keep me riveted, despite the lack of a meaningful plot.

Essentially, greaser Danny Zuko (Neil Starkenberg) and good girl Sandy Dumbrowski (Chelsea Williams) meet at the beach during the summer, and start a romance. They never expect to see each other again, because Sandy thinks she's going to Catholic school, and Danny has lied about where he'd be going to school. But on the first day of school, they tell their friends about their summer romance -- romantic on Sandy's part, more sexual on Danny's -- and are shocked to run into one another in the halls. Danny plays to his male cohorts, and Sandy is hurt by it, and it takes them the entire play to get back together.

Honestly, that's the plot, which a few subplots involving their friends, the "Pink Ladies" (Lilly Tobin, Gerianne Perez, Gillian Hassert, and Aleka Emerson) and the "Burger Palace Boys" (Kevin Neitzel, John K. Kramer, Adolpho Blaire, and Matty Rickard).

But the plot slips away when the song and dance begins. The entire company was in excellent form, under the able direction and choreography of Mark Martino and Elise Kinnon, and the colorful costuming of Travis Grant, combined with the lighting of Jesse Klug, made the show a delight to behold.

Aside from a few adult situations -- at one point, one of the Pink Ladies believes she might be pregnant, and one of the Burger Palace Boys seems to enjoy mooning at the drop of a hat -- the show is an excellent introduction to musical theater for young people, and a good number of youngsters were in the opening night audience.

A special number involving Frenchy's (Lilly Tobin) guardian "teen angel" (Austin Miller) was utterly delightful, in which he exhorts her to go back to high school and finish with her class after she quits school and subsequently drops out of beauty school. Another bright spot was the dance number surrounding Kenickie (Kevin Nietzel) and his jalopy which he named "Greased Lightning".

It's a delightful trip down memory lane, whether that lane is having seen American Graffitti at the movies, Happy Days on television, or having actually lived it.

Grease will be playing until August 5, and MSMT says they have arranged a few additional matinee shows to meet the demand. Visit them on MSMT.org for ticket information.

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