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BWW Review: GREASE at Music Theatre Wichita At The Capitol Federal Amphitheater In Andover, KS

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Oh, those summer nights!

BWW Review: GREASE  at Music Theatre Wichita At The Capitol Federal Amphitheater In Andover, KS

What a treat to sit under the stars on a cool evening and watch Grease! I felt like I was at a drive-in. The folks behind me were singing along to every song, and I was tempted to as well! It was such a feel-good production. Director Wayne Bryan joined us at the beginning of the show to give us a dramaturgical overview that shaped his concept, in particular tracing the history of women from the factories in the 40's, to women in the home in the 50's, to Women's Liberation in the 60s. Grease takes place in 1959, and he sees Sandy's transformation at the end of the show as a liberation from her only choice in life, as a homemaker and wife. I love Wayne's preshow talks and I will miss them when he retires.


I loved Jordan Slusher's "New Frontier" album cover backdrop that allowed simple additions to transform the playing area, for instance, into the high school gym by hanging simple strings of colored lights from the elevated bandstand. Brechtian location indicators and other Fabulous Fifties projections were devised by Michael Commendatore, who designed those amazing filmed sequences for MTW's Freaky Friday in the 2018 Season. Lighting Designer Don Fox gave so much life to the scenes with lots of color, and helped define myriad locations. The colorful costumes were coordinated by Abby Stroot. Especially effective were the girl's dresses at the High School hop, and the gorgeous silver and white showgirl pieces in Beauty School Dropout. That number was a real standout in so many ways. Musical Director Jesse Warkentin (Conductor, An American In Paris Tour), keeps his rock 'n roll ensemble tight, and his singers have that flavor of the 50's sound so distinctive to that era. I especially loved the acapella section of We'll Always Be Together, with some clever reharmonizations of vocals at the end of that number. Ryan Morrow's Sound Design made everyone sound awesome in the great outdoors! Sara Edwards, Associate Choreographer for the upcoming Music Man on Broadway, has done an outstanding job with the choreography here, especially in Shakin' At The High School Hop and Born to Hand Jive. I loved all the daring lifts, fast footwork, and the way the girls worked their skirts. The intricacy of the floor patterns and accuracy of movement in Beauty School Dropout was indicative of her work with The Rockettes and was simply stunning. I thought I detected a little nod to Bob Fosse at the end of We'll Always Be Together.

Jake David Smith plays Danny with a disarming charm; we've seen him here onstage as Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid. He has a soaring tenor and sounds terrific singing with his co-star Zan Berube as Sandy. A recent graduate with a BFA from University of Michigan, Berube has some real stand out moments in this show. She gives Hopelessly Devoted To You a haunting, intense delivery, and cranks up the sass as she belts out You're The One That I Want.

Overall, the T-Birds and Pink Ladies seemed more misguided youth than tough juvenile delinquents, and there were lots of standouts in this energetic cast. Wichita State Graduate Caroline Boesen does a delightful turn as the overly enthusiastic and blissfully self-unaware Patty Simcox. Darron Hayes as Doody sing Magic Changes so smoothly, tossing off his high falsetto notes like butter. Jessica Reese plays Marty with some innocence, fluctuating between the older but wiser girl, and the naive teen. She sang Freddy My Love with a classic 50s girl group feel. Jeremiah Porter plays a pretty laid back and cool version of Kenickie, having fun, looking good and sounding great in Greased Lightning. Connor Olney's Roger was a sweet foil to Faith Northcutt's endearing Jan. I thoroughly enjoyed their beautiful rendition of Mooning, a beautiful song about a very silly subject. Texas State graduate Maura Gill played tough girl Rizzo with a cool edge and sang There Are Worse Things I Could Do so incredibly well. Beauty School Dropout Teen Angel Jaye Alexander stole the show with his otherworldly, stratospheric notes and amazing attitude. Jaye is from Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from University of Michigan.

MTW veteran Michael Dikegoros' Eugene is adorable and endearing; local favorite Steve Hitchcock Jr. as radio jock Vince Fontaine is suitably obnoxious but still swoon worthy; and Serena Kozusko's dancing in Born To Hand Jive is flawless as Cha Cha from St. Bernadette's.

Next up is Twelfth Night, which runs November 10-14 at the Century II PAC, Convention Hall. Tickets are available by calling 316-265-3107 or visiting on the web at MTWichita.org


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