BWW Reviews : Ogunquit Playhouse Opens with GREASE
In an Ogunquit Playhouse season that will launch regional premieres of Billy Elliot, The Witches of Eastwick, The Addams Family and performances of an all time favorite, Mary Poppins, the season opener of Grease is a musical lightweight.
There's a mere thread of a plot where an unlikely couple, bad-boy Danny Zuko (Matthew Ragas), has a summer romance with ever-so-innocent, Sandy Dumbrowski (Mary Little). Thinking that they won't see one another as they return to high school, problems ensue when Danny discovers that Sandy has transferred to his own alma mater, Rydell High School. Danny is forced to overcome his bad boy image while Sandy overcomes her sweet and innocent persona.
The story unfolds with a cast of stereotypical characters reminiscent from high school days; the nerd, the car loving greaser, the cheerleader, the proper school principal, the loose lady, and the bad guys in leather jackets. The show's appeal is mostly in its 1950s musical vocals, period costumes and jitterbugging choreography.
As the lead couple, Ragas and Little certainly look right for the parts they play. Ragas is the more experienced of the twosome showing his vocal and acting skills in the ensemble numbers and in the number, "Alone At The Drive In Movie." Little is appropriately youthful and naïve and she hits every note just fine especially in the choice number, "Hopelessly Devoted to You." I just wish she could put a bit more energy into the acting side of the character.
Madeleine Barker as Rizzo was a standout with her number, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do." She's sexy, sassy and dazzles on the stage.
Preston Ellis as the ultimate grease monkey, Kenickie, gave a spirited performance of "Grease Lightning," his personal vision of what his junk heap of a car might become.
Mitch McCarrell as Doody did a fabulous job with his solo, "Those Magic Changes" and his voice merged nicely with Shawn Platzker as Roger in "Rock N' Roll Party Queen." Jillian Gottlieb as Frenchy was cute and bubbly, just what you want in a character with that kind of name.
Jamison Stern as radio personality, Vince Fontaine was far too sleazy and snarky for my taste. I prefer a smoother and slicker Vince Fontaine in this show. And while Stern did a great job in the vocals for the number "Beauty School Dropout," I was disappointed to see that the Playhouse didn't cast another actor for that choice song.
Grease will never hold the status of a grand classic of the Broadway stage but it does provide a lighthearted, fun evening of theater for the start of the 82nd season of the Ogunquit Playhouse.
For information, go to www.ogunquitplayhouse.com or call 207-646-5511.