I've been obsessed with the movie Grease since sixth grade. I've listened to the soundtrack endlessly. My fondness for the film even prompted me to watch the tacky NBC reality series Grease: You're the One that I Want. No blizzard would prohibit me from going to Overture Center and taking in the national touring production of Broadway's most recent revival of Grease.
This bright and brassy revival was the perfect antidote to a winter night, and it adds to Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's original show four songs that appeared in the film version, so fans of the movie will be pleased.
Charismatic Dominic Fortuna as disc jockey Vince Fontaine warmed up the crowd with a little charming patter and some Dion. He quickly had the audience dancing in their seats and made the names of neighboring communities somehow sound compelling (Mazomanie became a running joke throughout the evening).
After a stylish opening to Barry Gibb's "Grease," the action begins on the first day of school at Rydell High, as members of the Pink Ladies and T-Birds cliques are reunited with their classmates. Sandy (Lauren Ashley Zakrin) and Danny (understudy Mark Raumaker, filling in for American Idol contestant Ace Young) reminisce about their romance in the buoyant "Summer Nights." Then Sandy realizes that Danny is now acting aloof.
Clever sets make the transitions between musical numbers swift and smooth as, next, T-Bird wannabe crooner Doody (Jesse JP Johnson) imagines himself as a singing sensation and Marty (sexy Kelly Felthous) sings about her current boyfriend in "Freddy, My Love" while the Pink Ladies cavort in a dreamy pink bedroom.
It's a magical moment when Kenickie (another understudy, Preston Ellis) reveals the splendor of his souped up convertible, and his biceps, in the macho and dynamic "Greased Lightin.'" When the car turns around to face the audience, with headlights flashing in front of a background of twinkly stars, you suddenly understand the power and appeal of muscle cars. Ellis, who began the number a bit weakly, became more confident.
Sandy and Danny continue to have awkward encounters while pining for each other. The gang gathers at the bleachers where Roger (engaging Will Blum) serenades Jan (Bridie Carroll, who possesses an excellent voice) with an ode to his skills at mooning, and Rizzo (Laura D'Andre) ridicules Sandy for being a prude. The first acts closes with a raucous and catchy "We Go Together."
At the school dance, Jan performs "It's Raining on Prom Night" as a duet with a dejected Sandy, who is seen in her bedroom. High jinks ensue at the dance, where Kathleen Marshall's exuberant and flashy choreography is the star of "Born to Hand Jive." After the dance, Zakrin, who has a genuine sweetness about her, showcases her lovely voice on "Hopelessly Devoted to You."
When the colorfully coiffed Frenchy (effervescent Kate Morgan Chadwick) decides to abandon her cosmetology dreams, she is serenaded by American Idol winner Taylor Hicks as Teen Angel, who has a truly spectacular and sparkly entrance for "Beauty School Dropout." His bluesy voice brings a distinctive quality to the role, and Soul Patrol members will be glad to see that he busts out the harmonica and some of his signature dance moves.
Raumaker did his best work as Danny with the melancholy "Sandy," after he bungles a date at the drive-in. Later, in Jan's rec room, Rizzo worries that she's knocked up and belts out "There are Worse Things I Could Do." D'Andre is slightly stiff when acting, but she has a powerful voice.
Danny joins the track team to woo Sandy, but she dons skintight pants and teases her hair to win her man in "You're the One That I Want." In my heart of hearts, I know you shouldn't change for a man, but I have to admit the sexy Sandy is too cool to resist.
The volume is super loud, and from my seat near the front, I was a little distracted by the microphones visible on some cast members' foreheads like high-tech bindis. But the show is zippy and colorful, and the appealing cast is talented.
I'm not a huge Taylor Hicks fan, so his song tacked on after the curtain calls felt a little forced to me. But devotees will be happy to get that bonus performance.