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BWW Review: North Carolina Theatre's GREASE


Set in 1959, Grease tells the story of ten working-class teenagers as they navigate the complexities of peer pressure, politics, personal core values, and love in their senior year of high school.

The musical first premiered at the Kingston Mines Club in Chicago back in 1971. It then opened off-Broadway on February 14th, 1972, under first class Broadway contracts. Because of that, the off-Broadway production was deemed eligible for the 1972 Tony Awards where it earned seven nominations (including Best Musical). Grease then made its transfer to Broadway on June 7th, 1972 where it became one of the longest-running shows in history. It has since spawned two Broadway revivals, an enormously successful 1978 film adaptation, and the recent successful live television production on FOX.

While Grease Live did just air over a week ago, I will not be making any comparisons at all during this review because this production currently playing at North Carolina Theatre through February 14th easily stands on its own!

Directed by Broadway veteran Hunter Foster and choreographed by his wife Jennifer Cody (both of which appeared in the 1994 Broadway revival), the entire staging feels energetic from start to finish, just like a Broadway production!

This show is very much an ensemble piece led by a pair of well matched leads, Raleigh native John Arthur Greene (recently seen on American Idol) as Danny Zuko and Emily Behny as Sandy Dumbrowski. Greene is strong and confident in his role as he goes from macho man to nice guy throughout the show in order to win the heart of his true love. Behny is very sweet in her role as the good girl who later changes her image in order to win the heart of Danny.

The rest of the cast gets their own moments to shine. Michael Warrell as Danny's best friend Kenickie; Lauren Cipoletti as the tough, sarcastic, and outspoken Betty Rizzo; Matthew Rodin as the small and boyish Doody; Lily Tobin as Sandy's good natured best friend, Frenchy; Casey Shane as the wannabe tough guy, Sonny LaTierri; Ryah Nixon as the charming Pink Lady, Marty; F. Michael Haynie as mischievous clown, Roger; and Amy Toporek as the bubbly Pink Lady, Jan.

Other highlights in the cast include Carly Prentis Jones' comedic performance as the headmistress of Rydell High School, Miss Lynch; Adam Poole's energetic performance as the fast-talking radio disc jockey, Vince Fontaine; and Malcolm Armwood's shining performance as Teen Angel. Not to mention a great use of the NCT conservatory students in the ensemble.

With some colorful lighting designed by Charlie Morrison, great humor, and and energetic musical numbers that should leave people dancing in their seats all night long, audiences should be in for a GREAT TIME! The only possible criticism I could give this production is that I felt it should've been longer because I was having so much fun watching it!

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From This Author Jeffrey Kare