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'Grease' is the Word at Marriott Theatre

The year is 1959 and the place is Rydell High, where two high school gangs croon about their trials and tribulations, i.e. traditional high school angst. That’s right, it’s Grease. The Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire has assembled a younger, high-energy cast who tells the Taft High School tale with powerful voices and acting chops, to boot. With the original book, music, and lyrics by Chicagoans Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, this production of the popular show is far deeper and more real.

The two leads are played by Jimmy Nicholas as Danny Zuko and Leryn Turlington as Sandy Dumbrowski, the new girl in town, who sing and dance to perfection. Just see them in “Hand Jive.” Sandy comes off as the ideal “goody-two-shoes,” but when she changes into one of the Pink Ladies, she becomes a powerhouse in voice and demeanor. Nicholas is charming, with a little bit of vulnerability throw in against his solid bravado. Standouts include Jacquelyne Jones as Betty Rizzo whose “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” and “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” are emotionally-charged and Jonathan Butler-Duplessis as “Teen Angel” who never ceases to amaze the audience with his strong vocals and humor.

Ah, but the music. You’ll sing along to every tune, especially the ones borrowed from the 1978 movie, “Hopelessly Devoted” and “You’re the One That I Want”. The music is non-stop energy, bringing back some great memories like “Summer Nights”, “Freddy My Love”, “Greased Lightning”, and “We Go Together.” If you love the movie, and have never seen the original play, you’re in for a treat. 

The production is directed by four-time Jeff Award winner, Scott Weinstein, with musical direction by Jeff Award winner Ryan T. Nelson and choreography by Jeff Award winner William Carlos Angulo. As always, the costumes by Amanda Vander Byl are stellar, particularly in the Teen Angel number. Scenic Designer Jeffrey Kmiec maximizes the set with colorful neon lights and signage.