Marriott Theatre has brought back the true “Grease” with its book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. This is the Chicago version and is quite different that the “Hollywood”, John Travolta/Olivia Newton-John film. This play was written by Chicagoans about a Chicago high school ( Taft High School is Rydell) and this version if far meatier. At the helm of making this pleasurable theatrical experience take place is director Scott Weinstein who truly knows how to use the in-the-round stage at Marriott. He keeps the action moving and allows all four sides of the theater great views.
Due to this being a show about high school, many of the Marriott regulars have been replaced with a younger cast and they are dynamic. The two main role, Sandy and Danny are well handled by Jimmy Nicholas who is quite the dancer ( as seen in the “Born To Hand Jive” number when he is partnered with the amazingly talented Jessica Palkovic as Cha-Cha DiGregorio. Leryn Turlington’s Sandy is a perfect mix of gentle and mousey, but when she come out to join the Pink Ladies, terrific. Her vocal range is terrific as she does “Hopelessly Devoted” ( borrowed from the film along with “You’re The One That I Want”).
The film devotees will notice that in the original work , while Sandy is an important role, the other Pink Ladies are just as key to the show and I must say the group they have assembled for this production is WOW!. Starting with Rizzo, Jaqueline Jones is strong and powerful and her rendition of “There are Worse Things I Can Do” is a powerhouse number. Landree Fleming’s Frenchy will make you forget DiDee Conn’s performance. Fleming is adorable and funny as the “Beauty School Dropout”. By the way, Jonathan Butler-Duplessis is powerful as the Teen Angel for this number. But then again, he is always spectacular. Marty, the sexiest of the Pink Ladies is played to perfection by Michelle Lauto ( who I always enjoy watching as she takes her roles to heart) and the last of the pink ladies , Jan is played by Tiffany T. Taylor. This character provides some great comic moments.
The T-Birds, Danny’s “gang” or club is made up of a strange group of guys starting with Kenickie ( Kevin Corbett is “just right”) and then Michael Kurowski, Jack Cahill-Lemme and Jake Elkins ( who gets to put the “Mooning” song back in where it belongs). Miss Lynch is handled by Kelly Anne Clark and the other adults in the play are handled by Curt Bouril, Billy Rude and Butler-Duplessis. Eugene, the “nerd” is handled to perfection by Garrett Lutz and cheerleader. goody-two–shoes Patty Simcox by Alaina Wis. Rounding out the cast are the important ensemble members who truly make the show work. They are the pieces of the puzzle that complete the picture: Marco Tzunux ( wow , can he dance), Kyra Sorce, Allison Sill and Nicholas Haas. A small in numbers group, but huge in talent!
The musical numbers will bring back some great memories. “Summer Nights”, “Freddy My Love” ( Lauto is terrific in this one), “Greased Lightning”, “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee”, “We Go Together”, “You’re The One That I want” and all the
As usual the orchestra is conducted by Patti Garwood with musical direction by Ryan T. Nelson. The choreography by William Carlos Angulo and is stunning. Sally Zack’s props are just right and the costumes by Amanda Vander Byl perfect. Due to the in-the-round nature, not much can be done about a set but Jeffrey D. Kmiec knows how to bring the feeling to the Marriott stage and does. There is even a street sign for Bryn Mawr to bring the true Chicago flavor to Lincolnshire. By the way, I loved the car for both “Greased Lightning” and “Alone At The Drive In” numbers. FYI- the car does not transform itself into a beauty in the number. This is theater, not the movies. Use your imagination when the boys do this number and you will see what they see. The lighting by Jesse Klug and sound by Sarah Ortiz along with the wigs by Miguel A. Armstrong are all the icing on the cake that Marriott is presenting that will take many of you back to your high school years. This is the real version of the show ( without the actual “mooning”) and is one to put on your “Must See” list!