Grease ~ 2019

Grease is the Word!  

Grease is the word – but so are the words “powerful singing” and “high energy” when it comes to the production now on stage at Huron Country Playhouse in Grand Bend.  In fact, the whole show moves at the speed of greased lightning.

The Broadway version of Grease came out in 1972, followed by the movie in 1978.  In the seventies, mocking the fifties was very popular.  But let’s face it – what was funny in the fifties, or even the seventies, no longer seems that funny.  So much of Grease doesn’t really stand up today. 

The story of Grease isn’t a great one.  Danny and Sandy meet during the summer and apparently like each other.  When they meet up again, Danny is all swagger, and is rude to Sandy.  He’s happy to have rumours spread about her “putting out”.  Crude jokes and bullying abound.  This production seems particularly raunchy with a little too much crotch-grabbing.  Bullying is glorified in the way Rizzo treats Sandy and the members of the Pink Ladies gang.  The guys pick on the nerd Eugene and pants Roger.  Peer pressure holds too much power.  After Danny almost assaults Sandy at the drive-in, she has to run away from him.  Later, to win him back, she must go against her grain, switch to trampy clothes, and take up smoking.  Frankly, it’s not the message we want shared today.

Thankfully, Grease’s saving grace is the music.  The tunes are catchy and very danceable.  The big songs and fast-paced choreography save this show.  Fortunately, the cast is up to the task of giving us the song and dance that’s so well loved.

The leads are fantastic.  David Cotton as Danny has the Travolta-like swagger down pat, while Chelsea Preston as Sandy charms the audience with her innocence.  They start off the show with a beautiful rendition of “Summer Nights” joined by the cast.  Preston’s “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and Cotton’s “Sandy” are both presented beautifully.

Erica Peck’s Rizzo has just enough attitude with hints of her vulnerability. She belts a heartfelt version of “There are Worse Things I Could Do” that actually brought a lump to my throat.

Eddie Glen, a Drayton favourite, nearly steals the show in three roles.  He’s the guy serving burgers down at the drive-in, but he also plays Teen Angel and Vince Fontaine.  As Teen Angel he sings “Beauty School Dropout”, sliding effortlessly into a full falsetto.  Glen immediately has the audience in gales of laughter as he grins playfully and then slides gracefully across the stage on roller-skates.

The rest of the characters are very well cast.  Each person has their moment to shine, whether in song, dance, or a funny line.  They work well as a group, particularly in big numbers like “Born to Hand Jive” or “We Go Together”.

If you are of a certain age, you probably loved Grease when the movie came out.  Better yet, maybe you had a chance to see the stage version after it opened on Broadway.  I was lucky enough to see both the movie and the Broadway tour in 1978.

Fun fact: I wrote my first theatre review when Grease’s Broadway tour came to London, Ontario’s Centennial Hall in November 1978.  My review was published in the Western University’s Gazette, 41 years ago!  I loved the show, but I was highly critical of the acoustics in Centennial Hall.  People paid $9.50 a ticket, and couldn’t hear most of the speaking and singing!  They tried to alleviate the bad acoustics by having Centennial Hall staff sit on the floor in front of the stage and when the stars were about to sing, the staff tossed them a microphone.  Not the best fix!

This show is always incredibly popular, despite my concerns about it, and the Playhouse is 90 percent sold out already.  Order your tickets today if you are thinking of going.  You don’t want to miss these powerhouse singers and their high octane energy.

Grease will be on stage at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend until August 31.  Tickets are available by calling the Box Office 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com

Photo: Right: Chelsea Preston as Sandy, David Cotton as Danny and Company.  Left:  The program from the Broadway Tour of Grease in 1978, with my first theatre review, typed on an Underwood for the UWO Gazette.

Grease
Book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Directed and choreographed by Lisa Stevens
Musical Direction by Anthony Bastianon
Performed by Niko Anastasakis, Michelle Bouey, David Cotton, Caleb Di Pomponio, Eddie Glen, Garett Hill, Kelly Holiff, Seth Johnson, Greg Liow, Clea McCaffrey, Erica Peck, Stephanie Pitsiladis, Chelsea Preston, David Andrew Reid, Nick Sheculski, Darcy Steward, Sarah Vance, Christine Watson.
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
August 8 to 31, 2019
Reviewed by Mary Alderson