Daina Janitis reviews Grease

Even if you’ve thrown away your poodle skirt, abandoned Brylcreem, and can’t get what’s left of your hair into a DA – you’re going to LOVE the memories brought back by Drayton Entertainment’s 2019 production of Grease. If you’re my age – impress your friends first on the parking lot outdoors guessing what years are represented by the sleek, chrome-laden vintage cars on display. If you bring another generation with you, impress them with your command of 1950’s slang:

If you were annoying your buddies enough to fight, you were “Cruisin’ for a _____________’ “

If you were close enough to incite a punch, you were threatened with a “knuckle _____________”

If you avoided injury and succeeded in everything else, you were “made ___ ____ _________”

And if you were a tough guy who used copious amounts of the aforementioned Brylcreem, you were a “gr_____”.

No matter whether the 1950’s were your finest hour- or something you’re happy to have survived- you’re going to love the high-energy, mega-talented production of “Grease directed and choreographed for her brilliant company of actors/singers/dancers by Lisa Stevens. It’s a night (or matinee) of nostalgia that has been recaptured many times. Written in 1971, originally set in the fictional Rydell High School in 1959 (based on  Howard Taft High School in Chicago), it burst on the Chicago stage as a slightly raunchy, boisterous, collection of 1950’s tropes of teenage life- peer pressure, gangs, American love of the car, rebellion, sexual norms- and became the longest-running musical on Broadway at 3,388 performances – to be surpassed only by A Chorus Line.

The company assembled by the unsurpassable Drayton entertainment are going to be “my” Grease benchmark- and you won’t forget them. The purposely simple plot- with a believable twist at the end- is beautifully threaded through production numbers that will leave you tapping your feet and reading the program bio’s to know how you could have missed some of these people.

Danny Zuko, played by David Cotton, is every girl’s dream of a dark-haired anti-hero with terrific abs (and a beautiful singing voice) Danny has met and fallen in love with sweet blonde Sandy Dumbrowski , wooed but not persuaded to go “all the way” during some melodious “Summer Nights”. Their meeting on the first day of school (Sandy has transferred to Rydell after that contretemps at St. Bernadette’s over her patent leather shoes that might allow boys to see up her dress) draws lines between Donny’s cool T-birds and the Pink Ladies.

Pink Ladies first. Chelsea Preston is innocent but memorable as the sweet, high-principled Sandy whose final number is a convincing show-stopper. Lucky Sarah Vance is a total delight as the perfect high school class leader Patty- running for VP of the Student Council, inserting herself into conversations, doing the splits- and never dropping her twirling baton. Also, she’s married to David Cotton- so her luck runs deep. Erica Peck is the steely, smart-talking Rizzo – and you will not forget Kelly Holiff (a popular cabaret and concert performer) as Marty, the rich-voiced girlfriend of a Marine- without a date for the prom. Newcomer Clea McCaffrey as Jan makes an indelible mark as a food-gobbling comedienne who steals your heart in a beautiful duet with Nick Sheculski – “Mooning”. “Beauty School Dropout” Frenchy (Michelle Bouey) might elicit a tear or two of empathy for her proud fragility.

And what talented stars appear among Danny’s friends!  Seth Johnson IS Kenickie- tall, lean, (be still, my blue-haired lady’s heart) an excellent dancer whose love for his Greased Lightning car is a palpable as that for Rizzo. Delightful, too is Garett Hill as Doody- would-be guitarist and singer with some of the smoothest shy moves you’ve seen on a stage. And not a gang member but an over-the top conceited DJ and Guardian Angel who’s spangled wings almost trap him in the burger palace door …Eddie Glen is the consummate stage performer who get a slightly elevated round of applause from the audience every time.

The resident music group is fantastic, the costumes (on loan from the 2016 Toronto production) are perfection, the lighting brings you into so much of the action – and the dancing re-choreographed for this particular stellar cast – will leave you hard-pressed not to hand jive all the way back to your car.

 This Huron Country run is already 90% sold out. Be There or Be Square.

Watch this video Preview of Grease: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQAVfik1SwY#action=share

Daina Janitis

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