BWW Review: GREASE is Not the Word in Toronto's New Production
You could escape the cold weather for those "hot summer nights", but it may not be as warm as you had hoped. GREASE - THE MUSICAL takes us all back to Rydell High with a newly-imagined production by director and choreographer, Josh Prince (Broadway's Beautiful - The Carole King Musical and Shrek - The Musical). Prince's GREASE is certainly fun, but it lacks the energy that made us all fall in love with the film. A cast of TV leads do their best bringing the beloved show to life, but the performances, especially the singing, fall flat.
The show will obviously attract crowds of film fans, many even dressed up for last night's opening - but will they be satisfied by how it all translates to the stage? Prince's GREASE follows the changes adopted by the 2007 Broadway revival production, incorporating the film's "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "You're the One That I Want". Even with the updates, the show never really settles into its own rhythm.
GREASE opens with a rough acapella rendition of "Grease is the Word". I say rough because the group of singers were pitchy and out of time with the orchestra, setting a trend for the remainder of the night. Prince's direction attempts to hold the uneven show together, but it's the show itself that is inherently flawed. There is more of a focus on giving every member of the cast a song, than exploring the themes and emotional development of the actual story.
The most interesting moments of Prince's vision highlight his talent with choreography. "Greased Lightning" for example, features exciting, acrobatic dancing around, on and in a car on stage. Pedestrians stroll by, adopting various farcical, physical cameos as the Thunderbirds drive through town. But when a song transitions into a scene (and there are many long, unnecessary scenes in GREASE), the energy tends to plummet until another song takes over.
GREASE's biggest draw is Pretty Little Liars' Janel Parrish as Sandy. The television star has stage experience, she played Young Cosette in Les Misérables as a child. Parrish was also a top-three finalist on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, so the dance chops are there. But actually seeing the triple-threat live, in action, was lacklustre. There was little-to-no chemistry between Parrish and co-star Dylan S. Wallach, playing Danny Zucko. Wallach's Danny was goofy, charming and ultimately over-the-top. His vocals weren't up to par with his charismatic stage presence - "Sandy" was underwhelming and unmemorable.
Katie Findlay as Rizzo is one of the production's redeemable qualities. A true alto, Findlay belts her way through a finely refined "There Are Worst Things I Could Do", making it the musical highlight of the evening. Matt Magnusson also deserves praise as Kenickie. Magnusson was one of the cast's best actors - his balanced, animated voice during "Greased Lightning" gave a glimpse of the potential in Prince's vision.
If you like Grease, you'll have a good time at GREASE - THE MUSICAL. For the most part, the songs you want to hear are there, just maybe not in the order you'll want to hear them. There are several lovely moments in the show - but the whole package lacks polish.
GREASE - THE MUSICAL is presented by Irregular Entertainment and runs through December 10th at the Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St, Toronto, ON.
For more information and to buy tickets visit www.greasetoronto.com