Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review By Brit: Grease, or "Grease Lightning, as sung by the CORRECT character."

I love Grease. I love the music. I love the vibe. I love the attitude.

I say I love Grease to people, and they say, "Oh, John Travolta is great." And I shudder. Violently.

I hate the movie Grease with the kind of zeal that I reserve for the worst of cinema (I bring it up, of course, because this is a movie blog.) When I talk Grease, I'm talking about the stage production, the infinitely better stage production that isn't catering to Olivia Newton John's inability to do a different accent (or, you know, act.)

So it was with delight that Melanie and I went to Sandstone's Grease. I'll admit, up front, I had reservations, as this is something of a beloved show in my book. But, we did it. We went, we watched. It was glorious. There's a reason this show has been selling out like mad here in town.

Last year, I reviewed Fiddler on the Roof, done by the same company. I might make it a tradition, but for now, I had to review Grease.

It's the story we're all familiar with; Danny Zuko (Heath Cates) had a Summer of love with Sandy (Mandy Arcomano), but now school is back in session and Danny's back to his usual T-Bird's routine. SURPISE! There's Sandy, and the cool guy act is put to the test.

Community theatre can be scary. I will never forget the local production of "Pirates of Penzance" (My favorite stage play.) When I say I will never forget, that might not be a good thing. And that's a shame because I liked all of the parties involved.

Grease, however... The cast and crew here just got it. They understood the characters. They took their outdoor theatre that, once upon a time, served as a stage to perform plays about settlers and Native Americans, and made it work for Rydell High. And the actors didn't try to emulate the movie. THEY DIDN'T TRY TO EMULATE THE MOVIE!!!!

That's important, folks. Maybe not to the average (at least locally) theatre goer who might expect to see a mimicry of the movie. But it's the mark of a good actor that, in spite of very famous and well known performances of the same characters before, they make the character their own.

As with most theatre, the actors are (and should be) the focus. And they delivered. My favorite character is Frenchy (here played by Mohriah James) and every line made me grin ear to ear. My personal favorite character and I was not disappointed.

I was, however, disappointed in two things. Which does bring down the score. Let's address them.

First, the tech issues. The mics give out here and there. I've complained about this before, and of course I get yelled at for doing so. I'm sorry, but the fact is, you want to be received like professional theatre, these things need to get figured out. There are tons of examples, even dating back to the 80's, of recorded, outdoor theatre where these issues are not present. I know it's expensive to keep this stuff up to date. I get that. And maybe some of the burden falls on theatre supporters like myself to get the word out there and get funds to help iron out these issues. But, it's something that will continue to drag down shows.

Second issue; Heath Cates is a good guy. Good actor, awesome person. But... Do you all remember that drive in scene? Sandy and Danny? And he makes a move? I have misophonia, so when I hear, as loud as can be, the sounds of mouth movement and nastiness coming through the speakers while Danny tries to make out with Sandy, I go insane. This is entirely personal, of course. But HOLY GOD does the sound of mouth movement, kissing, eating or otherwise drive me insane. Amplify it? Ick. Ick. Ick.

I love you, Heath. Please don't take that personally. We all sound like that when we kiss. Folks, I'm the one with the problem. But, there you go...

This was a great show, packed with all the things you expect it to have. Jan's (Tasha Irvin) tooth brushing song. Vince Fontaine (shout out to KSJE GM Scott Michlin, the man who graciously let's us record the Void Zone.) Kenickie singing Grease Lightning because it's HIS FREAKING CAR! And, "We go together." Yes. Yes, we do.

The only thing missing (and the only good thing about the movie) is Sha-Na-Na and Bowser, but, I'm not so sure I like the modern Sha-Na-Na. So, no real loss.

Unfortunately, you can't go see it anymore. Why? Sold out. For the rest of the run (as of writing this.) But awesome. I'm glad to see local theatre succeed. It warms my heart, and even more so when it's a favorite show performed and run by a very deserving group of talented people.

And because I can't label everyone in the show, here's the cast list. Everyone, cast and crew, tech people, EVERYONE, deserves a shout out.


Brit W.
Author of "Piggy"

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