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Home | Maine State Music Theater Reviews | GREASE May Be The Word - But Spectacular is the Musical

GREASE May Be The Word - But Spectacular is the Musical

GREASE May Be The Word - But Spectacular is the Musical

Review by Charles Crosby Photos by Roger S. Duncan GREASE, the third show of the 2017 Maine State Music Theatre (MSMT) season opened on Thursday, July 20 and it was like going to my first sock hop! The musical book, music, and lyrics of GREASE by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey is well known to musical theatergoers with its 3,388 Broadway performances and then John Travolta and Olivia Newton John helped make it a mega-successful motion picture in 1978.

The musical is set at Rydell High School and it is the senior year of the class of 1959 with "greaser" Danny Zuko played by Neil Starkenberg and the innocent girl who he met at the beach over the summer and who is now the new girl in school, Sandy Dumbrowski played by Chelsea Williams. The musical moves quickly and follows the romances, toils and turbulent relationships of the "Burger Palace Boys" and their "Pink Ladies". Throughout much of the show Zuko tries to be act tough but also shows Sandy he is a nice guy, too.
The leads in this show debuted last season in the MSMT hit MAMMA MIA! as Sky and Sadie but in this production of GREASE in my opinion Danny and Sandy are break out roles for these actors. Williams, who grew up in Windham, ME, plays Sandy. She is perfectly cast and with her blonde wig and strong clear vocals she nails the part and highlight performances for me are  
"Summer Nights",  "Hopelessly Devoted To You" and "You're the One That Want." The chemistry with Starkenberg (Danny) is magical and he has some great greaser mannerisms that appear to have been channeled from Travolta. Starkenberg sings and dances well and does a great rendition of "Sandy." 
The rest of Danny's gang are Kenickie (Kevin Nietzel) who was a performance intern in 2014 and sings and dances well, Sonny (Matty Rickard), Doody (John K. Kramer) and Roger (Adolpho Blaire). The Pink Ladies are Rizzo (Gerianne Perez) who sings "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" and "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" beautifully, Marty (Aleka Emerson) does a great job portraying the worldly teenager with big dreams, Frenchy (Lilly Tobin) and Jan (Gillian Hassert).  The petite actress, Lilly Tobin, is so adorable and is perfect as the ditsy wanna be hairstylist and recent high school dropout Frenchy and I was thoroughly entertained by the comedic pairing of Blaire (Roger) and Hassert (Jan) - they play well off each other and are hilarious. 
All the main charactors are well cast in their roles and GREASE is expertly directed and choreographed by Mark Martino who deserves kudos for another fine MSMT show (he directed Mamma Mia! last season). Martino has a great feel for how to make a show, that has been around this long, seem new and exciting. He brings actors and actresses into the audience several times throughout the show which adds to the excitement and he is also not  afraid to allow the creative staff to think outside of the box. I liked the singing and choreography of "Greased Lightning" in Act 1, Scene 6 and in the last scene "We Go Together" there were 20 dancers in the audience including several in the second level seating area which made for a very powerful ending.  
In Act 2, I must say I was blown away, as was the audience who applauded along with me, when the curtain rose on the "Beauty School Dropout" scene - no words can accurately describe how beautiful the set and costumes were. Travis M. Grant from Waldoboro, ME, who went to school at the University of Southern Maine and has been working at MSMT since 2011 (managing the costume rental business for three years). Grant makes his main stage debut as the costume designer for GREASE. His creativity and the work of his talented team is excellent and he told me that his thought process behind this scene was "Zigfield, meets the Jetsons" and I guess that is the best way to describe it. It is great to see talents like Grant's recognized by  MSMT's management. 
All the sets and scene changes were perfect in GREASE and kudos to the entire production staff for making a show flow effortlessly - from lights to sound and all the quick scene changes it is a winner.     
Kudos to Dance Captain Rickard and his team of dancers who don't miss a beat in GREASE. I was thoroughly en-tertained and  caught up in the Prom Night scenes in Act 2 and loved the "Hand Jive" and dance off sequence.  
Charis Leos as the high school dis-ciplinarian Miss Lynch, Samantha Schiffman as the know-it-all brown nose Patty Simcox, and Mike Baskowski as the nerdy Eugene Florczyk all gave great performances in the many scenes in which they appear. The cast is rounded out with strong performances from Teen Angel/Johnny Casino played by Austin Miller, Vince Fontaine played by Tony Lawson and Cha-Cha DiGregorio played by Chiara Trentalange. 
The ensemble, who appear in many of the dance sequences are Ronnie Bowman, Jr., Adena Ershow, Maggie Malaney, Mariah MacFarlane, Natalie Perez-Duel, Christina Emily Jackson, Nathan Cockroft, Giovanni DiGabriele, Kyle Laing, Brian Liebson, Natalie Bellamy, Rebecca René Kelley, Sara Sargent, Tracy Sokat, Michael Carrier, Kevin Murakami, John Pletka, and Mickey White.
One great touch at the end of the show is when the reprise of "We Go Together" is sung. The entire cast makes a quick costume change and they come out wearing custom white outfits - it was a great effect and the audience loved it. 
All performances of GREASE are at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus at 1 Bath Road,  Brunswick.  
For more information and to buy tickets, please visit www.msmt.org or call the box office at 207-725-8769. Matinees on Saturday, July 29 and Saturday, August 5 have been added so call soon to reserve your tickets. 
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