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Review: GREASE at PPAC

Review:  GREASE at PPACThe current tour of Grease features performers from the reality show Grease: You're The One That I Want, which chose the ‘Danny' and ‘Sandy' for the current Broadway production, which will close January 4th. Some of the actors from the Broadway production are on tour with this production. The tour is also a vehicle for former ‘American Idol' Taylor Hicks, who has a turn as ‘Teen Angel', a role he first tackled in the Broadway production.

The last tour of Grease I saw starred Rosie O'Donnell as ‘Rizzo'. That script was molded around Rizzo's pregnancy scare, to give the star as much stage time as possible, which made for a very funny show. This production is more true to the original story.

The evening begins with an artistically weak, but effective, opening, in which Dominic Fortuna, as WAXX DJ Vince Fontaine, is essentially an opening act. Fortuna warms up the crowd with some Golden Oldies sing-a-longs and dance-a-longs; finally, the play begins.

Danny (Eric Schneider) and Sandy (Emily Padgett) are reunited on the first day of School at Rydell High after a magical summer by the beach, but peer pressure may keep them apart. Kenickie (David Ruffin) loves Rizzo (Allie Shulz), whether or not she is having his baby. Frenchie (Kate Morgan Chadwick) drops out of school, before she can flunk out, goes to beauty school, flunks out and goes back to graduate from Rydell.

Schneider and Padgett as Danny and Sandy, and Ruffin as Kenickie and Schulz as Rizzo are fine performers. Each of them in perfectly prepared and can sing and dance quite well. There is not a lot of chemistry between the two pairs of lovers, but as they are surrounded by an exceptional supporting cast and a fast-moving story, it hardly matters.

The cast shines in the all-ensemble numbers like ‘Summer Nights', ‘We Go Together' , ‘Born to Hand Jive' and for the first time in the play, 'You're the One That I Want'. The all-guys ‘Greased Lightning', pops. The choreography in these numbers is fresh, clever and tight. The are some moments of real "Oh, wow!" brilliance.

Brian Crum as Doody and Scot Patrick Allan as Eugene stand out in their supporting roles. Crum for his deep, rich, voice and Allan for his dancing.

Taylor Hicks, whom the audience adores, has a magical entrance and does a fine job as Teen Angel. While Hicks may be a draw to bring the audience into the theater, he does not rely on gimmickry. Hicks understands the campy nature of the role but approaches Teen Angel with artistic integrity. He gets to wail a few bars on his harmonica, which adds another dimension to the character.

Martin Pakledinaz's costumes are brilliant. The colors, proportion and style and cut are all top-notch. The bright-red jacket Danny wears at the beginning evokes James Dean, which is a nice touch. The sets, designed by Derek McLane and the lighting design by Kenneth Posner, feel more substantial than I expected for a touring show. The malt shop set is especially dreamy.

If Grease shares the same place in your heart that it does in mine, you will adore this incarnation. Everything you are looking for in a production of Grease is here. A word of advice to the folks who like to sneak out, just before the show ends, to get to their car quicker. Don't. If you do, you will miss a really terrific curtain call number.

Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall, Grease will be at Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) through December 7th. Ticket prices range from $41-$68 and can be purchased online at www.ppacri.org, at PPAC's box office window or by calling 401-574-3162. 

Photos by RD/Leon/Retna Digital


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