BWW Reviews: Music Circus Opens With Charismatic GREASE

The ultimate musical on peer pressure, sex and parties, "Grease" always wins out as a good time, despite shallow characters that overshadow deeper truths.  No one can deny the appeal of the 50s style rock n' roll music or the fun stereotypes of geeks, cheerleaders and "live life while you can" teenagers that appear in "Grease." These teenagers seem determined to have a good time - something they share in common with audiences.

If nothing else, Sacramento Music Circus guarantees a good time with its production of "Grease." Playing now through July 1, the California Musical Theatre production features an energetic cast with loads of talent; a cast that one might say was "born to hand jive, baby." Those who lived through the era portrayed will reminisce while they have a party with everyone else. And anyone who actually cares about the superficial nature of the plot will still appreciate a grand cast singing memorable songs like "Greased Lightnin'," "We Go Together" and "You're the One that I Want." 

The amusing story follows shy and conservative Sandy as she transfers to a new school and finds out her summer fling boyfriend attends her new school. Danny's gang of T-Bird friends thinks of little else but sex, fooling around and skipping class to hang out. With the pressure on, Danny becomes torn between the girl he loves and the manly impression he wants to maintain with his friends. Although he makes efforts to get back with Sandy, his bad boy side wins out, leaving Sandy to contemplate who she really wants to be as her own group of Pink Lady friends tease her for being so clean and pure.

On surface, the message of the musical seems to be that sex, drinking, smoking and peer pressure are good things and that it's OK to change who you are for love. A few down to earth moments remain. Pink Lady, Rizzo, gets a pregnancy scare. As Lesli Margherita sings a rousing rendition of the characters' ballad "There Are Worse Things I Could Do," the audience looks into the soul and pain of those society quickly judges and labels. But soon thereafter, Rizzo announces it as a false alarm and immediately returns to her façade. Still, Rizzo stands out as the only real, heartfelt character of a stereotype-driven show - albeit, those stereotypes are the source of much of the show's sometimes melodramatic humor. 

Sandy's interactions with Rizzo provide a thought-provoking situation in which the conservative girl realizes that rowdy teenagers have feelings, too. Rizzo's refusal to cry in front of Sandy during her pregnancy scare moves Sandy to ask herself why her friends can't see the heart behind her shy façade, and her disappointment plays a major factor in her rather sudden choice to start anew. But in the end, the decisions of the show's leading man and woman remain motivated by peer-pressure.

The script of the Sacramento production stays mostly true to the original "Grease," but includes a few songs that were added for the film version of the show. It lacks the overture-like prologue that the 2007 Broadway revival added, which makes the Music Circus opening number lackluster. Fortunately, the cast keeps the otherwise dull script alive, although that script has plenty of color when it comes to sex, alcohol, smoking and other activities "forbidden" to high school students.   

Kevin Quillon as Roger serves as the perfect example of immature high school boys when, in one of the many highlights of the show, he tells a girl about the reason for his nickname "Rump" and sings the hilarious "Mooning." Other highlights include Cynthia Ferrer, Jeff Skowron, Jill Townsend and Dana Solimando in the smaller roles of Miss Lynch, Eugene, Patty and Cha Cha, as well as Robert J. Townsend as Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine. John Pinto Jr. also gives a memorable performance as Doody in a charming version of "Those Magic Changes." 

Kirsten Scott fits the part of Sandy perfectly, matching her own unforgettable voice with notable songs like "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "It's Raining on Prom Night." And Brandon Albright remains cool as the hotshot Danny, but also provides doses of perfect comedic timing and gorgeous high notes during "Alone at a Drive-in Movie," which includes the use of a very real, very awesome mini red car. 

Ultimately, audiences are bound to get some enjoyment from "Grease," whether they like the story or not. The music keeps the show going, and Music Circus never goes wrong with its casting. Director Glenn Casale also makes perfect use of the Music Circus theatre in the round in his flawless staging of yet another strong opening to another exciting Music Circus season.


Through July 1

Sacramento Music Circus

At the Wells Fargo Pavilion

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From This Author Harmony Wheeler

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