BWW Review: GREASE at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater
There is a famous thought experiment in which the participant is asked to not think of a pink elephant. As you would expect, as soon as you tell a person to not think about a pink elephant, their brain automatically focuses on nothing but that forbidden image. I felt something similar going on watching Grease at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater. No matter how hard I wanted to enjoy the show on its own merits, my mind kept going back and making comparisons to the iconic 1978 movie with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.
I think there are probably two good approaches to combat unwanted comparisons. Either make your show a living, breathing tribute to the movie, or else stage it in a highly unique manner so that comparisons become irrelevant or impossible. Unfortunately, Dutch Apple did not do either of these things, so flaws become somewhat magnified as you unconsciously compare it to one of the most popular movie musicals of all time.
The set was generic, featuring some non-descript arches, with very little suggesting the 1950's. A series of center stage steps lead up to the on-stage. five-piece orchestra. Music was tight and added some welcomed vibrancy to the show.
I don't feel that a traditional, chronological review of the show would be beneficial to the reader's understanding of the production. Instead, I have included some select comments that highlight a few of the challenges that I experienced throughout the night. Keep in mind that not all of my comments are directed towards the choices made within this particular production, some are directed towards the script in general.
***Where, exactly, is Grease supposed to be set? Some characters had tough Brooklyn accents, some slipped in and out of accents, and others didn't have any accent at all.
***I was not convinced that Danny (Nick McDonough) would need be worried about acting cool around his group of friends. They mostly seemed to be a bunch of immature wimps. Any of them should be grateful to date a hottie like Sandy.
***Too many of the songs have little bearing on forwarding the plot (e.g., Freddy My Love, These Magic Changes, Mooning)
***Considering she is supposed to be a stereotypical goody-goody, Sandy (Karis Gallant) assaults Rizzo (Kathleen Carter) and gives Patty Simcox (Michelle Bailey) a black eye. Doesn't seem very characteristic for someone who gets nauseated at the sight of her own blood!
***The Greased Lightening car looked awesome from its first moment on stage, therefore the jokes about it being a hunk of junk do not make much sense.
***"Beauty School Drop-Out" was played strictly for broad laughs. Teen Angel (Christopher Cody Cooley) has a voice suited for Bikini Bottom, not for crooning in a 1950's malt shop.
In summary, this production, just like the Greased Lightning car, could use some fine tuning. There were several things that I did lenjoy and admire, such as Andy Kear's voice, Chris Trombetta's comic timing, and Demi Ahlert's dance moves. However, this is one time when the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. Rent the movie (again), instead.