The Paper Mill Playhouse completes their year long celebration this month of their 75th Anniversary Season with the American classic “Grease.” Running through the month until June 29, 2014, “Grease” will get you swaying in your seat as you hear the great doo-wop sound of the 1950’s and songs that became popular from the classic movie version of this show. Although the musical has been around for a long time, the Paper Mill has put a fresh look on it and it plays out very well. “Grease” has a book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. This version is directed by Daniel Goldstein with choreography by JoAnn M. Hunter. Additionally, there are songs by John Farrar, Barry Gibb, Scott Simon and Louis St. Louis.
The story centers around a year at Rydell High School for a group of students dominated by the Pink Ladies, their guys sometimes known as the Thunderbirds and a few other class members. The time period is during the 1950's. The show opens with Sandy and Danny enjoying their summer vacation at the beach where they experienced a taste of summer loving. The Paper Mill has designed a very clever way to show what went on at the beach by running a film clip on a drop down screen to open the show. The movie is filmed in a style reminiscent of the old home movies families used to take back in the day. It’s fun to watch the pair romping on the beach and running in and out of the ocean which was probably filmed at the Jersey shore. However, they said farewell to each other as the summer ended because Sandy was slated to go to Immaculata High School as Danny returned to Rydell. But a change in plans lands Sandy at Rydell where she meets Danny again. But once back at school, Danny is not willing to give up his reputation as a tough guy rather than the sweet one from the summer. And so it begins.
The show has a nice mix of well choreographed dance numbers, good songs, especially some of the doo-wops, and a story line that allows us to experience the ups and downs of growing up. It reminds us of the search teenagers go through to find their rightful place in this life. There are disappointments, triumphs, and just plain old fun along the way. Some of the stand out scenes of the show include:
- The opening scene with the song “Summer Nights” where the cast is introduced allowing the audience to see who is who and what they do.
- “Greased Lightnin” shows the heap of junk car when it was bought and before our very eyes, it transforms into a work of art.
- “We Go Together” both before intermission and at the end are favorite numbers for audience viewing as the energy and combined voices of the cast make for an outstanding upbeat song.
- “Born to Hand-Jive” is pure fun to watch as the infamous dance-off hosted by Vince Fontaine captures the spirit of Rydell and is played out in their gymnasium.
- And of course, the big transformation of Sandy after Danny’s realization that he’s not cut out to be an athlete are played out in “You’re the One That I Want.”
The cast for the show brings a young group of performers who are loaded with talent. Their energy and wonderful voices bring a fresh excitement to this show. Taylor Louderman is Sandy and Danny is played Bobby Conte Thronton. Telly Leung makes an appearance as the Teen Angel. Joey Sorge plays Vince Fontaine and Kat Nejat plays Cha-Cha. Donna English is Rydell High School teacher Miss Lynch with Sean Patrick Doyle as Eugene and the ever enthusiastic Patty Simcox played by Eloise Kropp. Brad Simmons plays Johnny Casino.
The Pink Ladies are lead by Rizzo played by Morgan Weed with Dana Steingold as Frenchy, Tess Soltau as Marty and Leela Rothenberg as Jan. The guys are lead by Shane Donovan as Kenickie with Robin De Jesus as Doody, Tommy Bracco as Sonny, and Matt Wood as Roger. Other students at Rydell High include Gillian Munsayac, Kat Nejajt, and Kevin Santos. Swings are Mike Longo and Kate Bailey.
For those who are more familiar with the movie version of “Grease” be assured that the storyline is similar but there are some things that play out differently. They work well in the show such as a scene where Rizzo sings “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” to Sandy to explain their differences. The impact of that song leads to Sandy’s big transformation. I had with me my “junior reviewer” who has grown up seeing the movie and she loved the show. No problems with the shifts at times and surprisingly, she bought right into the 50’s style music and was humming it going home. Yes, a new generation has come to love “Grease!”
“Grease” will be performed at Paper Mill Playhouse eight times a week, Wednesday through Sunday. Performance schedule includes Wednesday at 7:00pm, Thursday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm, Friday at 7:00pm, Saturday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm and Sunday at 1:30pm and 7:00pm. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at www.PaperMill.org. Special note: Sunday evening performances of Grease will be “1950’s dress up nights.” Show up in your best 1950’s outfit and receive a 20% discount at the Paper Mill Playhouse Gift Shop.
To see pictures of the show, visit Let'sGototheTheater.com