BWW Review: GREASE at Starlight Theatre
An enthusiastic, almost sold-out house greeted Starlight Theatre's second locally produced production of the 2017 summer season, "Grease." Sold-out at Kansas City's almost 8000 seat landmark, outdoor theater says a bunch. Hundreds of young audience members sported "Grease" Pink Lady Jackets just like actors on the stage.
"Grease" ran for eight years and more than 3000 performances on Broadway before spawning a hit film, two Broadway revivals, two television versions, and countless regional touring companies, international productions, and community theater interpretations.
There have been a number of changing iterations of "Grease" since the original production opened at a long gone Chicago nightclub in 1971. The best-known and beloved version is probably the 1978 film, but this stage version is not that. The film streamlined the stage version, added some songs, cut some numbers, changed the opening scene, altered some characters, and eliminated some story lines. This is the expanded stage play.
Starlight's 2017 "Grease" is a huge show that almost surely reflects one of the Broadway revivals. It has been produced for a presentation on the mammoth Starlight, almost 70-foot, proscenium arch. The sets and lighting scheme have been specifically built to take advantage of Starlight's unique stage space. This ensemble has more than thirty-five members and a named cast of twenty.
An unusual number of young, professional, locally based actors support the main leads and The New York director. A Blue Star teen ensemble (drawn from local secondary school sources) joins the singing and dancing ensemble for many of the show's big production numbers.
"Grease" tells the tale of a stereotypical 1950s high school and two pretty mild high school gangs, the T-Birds and their female counterparts, The Pink Ladies. The T-Birds leader is cool Danny Zuko (Timothy Michael Quinn). Danny has met the someone who is the antithesis of the Pink Lady girls at the beach over the summer break. She is Sandy Dumbrowski (Heidi Webster), a blond, attractive, good girl who has transferred into school district as her father has been reassigned to the area. Sandy is going to do her best to fit in at the new school. She is surprised to find Danny at her new school and doesn't understand why his personality is so different (in front of his friends) from the sweet guy she met at the beach.
Subplots involving Rizzo's (Lindsey Olson) possible pregnancy, Doody's (Anthony Norman) musicianship, Marty's (Eliza Palasz) romance with a deployed Marine, Kenickie's (Don Denton) car mania, Frenchie's (Landree Fleming) choice to attend beauty school, and Roger's (Eric Geil) predeliction to display his posterior in public are among the subplots either seen for the first time or expanded for the audience. The dance at the gym, Eugene's (Steven Eubank)dorkiness, and the penultimate threat of a rumble with the cross town gang are all still there.
All the traditional "Grease" music remains and is well performed under the capable musical direction Anthony Edwards leading an ample and professional eight piece pit orchestra. Standout turns by Eliza Palasz, Lindsey Olson, and Eric Geil are all worthy of special mention.
Once again, able direction by Phillip Wm. McKinley, choreography by Paula Lynn, and scenic design by Cliff Simon and lighting by Sean Glass pull together this popular show characterized by its spectacle.
"Grease" at Starlight Theatre continues through September 14. Tickets are available at the Starlight website or by telephone at 816-363-7827.
Photo provided by Starlight Theatre.