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Grease - Ladue News: Arts & Entertainment

Grease

Touring Company

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Posted: Friday, January 15, 2010 12:00 am

Play:        Grease

Group:        Touring Company

Venue:        Fox Theatre, 527 N. Grand Blvd.

Dates:        Through Jan. 24

Tickets:    From $24 to $66; 534-1111 or www.metrotix.com

Story:    The students at Rydell High aren’t exactly ready for the start of school in September 1959, at least not the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies, two groups of ‘cool’ kids led by Danny Zuko and Betty Rizzo, respectively, who aren’t exactly the bookish type. They’re all thrown off, though, when the girl Danny met over the summer, Sandy Dumbrowski, transfers there from a Catholic school. Danny has to be indifferent to Sandy to maintain his cool image, and Rizzo makes life difficult for her, as well, because Sandy doesn’t smoke, drink or do anything ‘hip.’

Highlights:    Seems hard to believe, but the cool, with-it Grease has been around for 38 years now since its 1972 Broadway debut. Of course, the 1978 movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John was a huge hit, and two successful revivals played Broadway in 1994 and 2007.  The show’s lasting popularity owes a lot to the infectious score of early rock ‘n’ roll-inspired numbers by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who wrote the book, music and lyrics. The latest revival incorporates several tunes from the movie, as well.

    Grease has an upbeat, entertaining sound throughout, from the titular opening number and the paean to fast cars, Greased Lightning, to the rollicking Born to Hand-Jive and the catchy You’re the One That I Want at the show’s conclusion.

Other Info:    Despite that enduring legacy, the current touring production at The Fox has some snafus. This version helmed by director/choreographer Kathleen Marshall displays little chemistry between its players, at least on opening night.

    Additionally, Marshall manages to mangle tunes such as Those Magic Changes and You’re the One That I Want by having the performers rush into the tunes with little subtlety or segue. In the case of the former, a charming ballad is botched, while in the latter example a musical gem is unceremoniously gotten out of the way too quickly. It’s difficult to understand the reasoning for such frenetic decisions!

    Stellar performances, though, were delivered by Kelly Felthous, who fills ‘Pink Lady’ Marty with exuberance and explosive dancing and a love of unbridled rock ‘n’ roll. Dominic Fortuna, as oily DJ Vince Fontaine, gets everything off to a fun start with 15 minutes of pre-show badinage and sing-alongs with the audience, while American Idol winner Taylor Hicks delighted the crowd opening night with an impromptu performance after the curtain calls. But as the show’s ‘Teen Angel,’ he was stiff and silly.

    Another American Idol favorite, Ace Young, fares better musically than romantically in the pivotal role of Danny.  There is little chemistry with Lauren Ashley Zakrin as Sandy, who, I thought, showed considerably more spark and in last year’s production of Legally Blonde.

    Will Blum is amusing as Roger, the ‘mooning’ T-Bird, and Laura D’Andre effectively plays ‘tough girl’ Rizzo. Kate Morgan Chadwick is appealing as Beauty School Dropout Frenchy, while David Ruffin is OK as tough guy Kenickie.

Rating:    A 3 on a scale of 1-to-5.

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