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Grease (Review)

Classic story lacks much plot, but it can dance

By Rick Pender · January 22nd, 2009 · Onstage

The musical Grease has been around for nearly four decades. It was fun and retro back in 1972, but 37 years later it’s more like a cartoon, at least in the touring version currently at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.

Did people really act like that? Well, yes. But you can see the same shenanigans and cardboard characters in reruns of Happy Days. So do we really need this odd tale about teen conformity?

The show’s 1978 film was a hit with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John singing several tunes not in the original stage version. The touring show, based on a 2007 Broadway revival that just closed, includes four of those songs: “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Sandy,” “You’re the One That I Want” and the title number, used as the show’s big, energetic opening. This version of Grease has tons of energy, especially in dance sequences.

But the musical is hopelessly lacking a coherent plot, so my engine never really started.

Nevertheless, many in the audience had fun hearing tunes they remembered. (This production even uses Grease’s DJ, Vic Fontaine, played by Dominic Fortuna, as a warm-up act about 10 minutes before the show starts. He ably sings a few familiar hits from the era and gets the audience to sing along.) The best part of this production is the lively choreography, especially “Born to Hand-Jive,” which the youthful cast dances with zeal.

Many are attending this production to check out Taylor Hicks, the American Idol winner from 2006 in a cameo as Teen Angel, a role he began during the revival’s Broadway run. He wears a glittering suit and descends from an immense ice cream cone, but his song (“Beauty School Dropout”) doesn’t give him much to do, even though he’s backed up by a quartet wearing hair-drying bonnets. He returns during the curtain call to sing again, but if you’re really a fan, buying his next recording (out in early February) might be more satisfying.

Eric Schneider poses with lots of attitude as Danny Zuko, and Emily Padgett, who has a lovely soprano voice, makes Sandy Dumbrowski’s illogical transition from pretty prude to slinky slut. But I found myself mostly bored by Grease, a piece of quaint musical theater history that fails to offer much to audiences in 2009.

GREASE, presented by Broadway Across America, continues through Feb. 1 at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.



01.23.2009 at 02:48 Reply
Soooooo... What you are saying is "Many are attending to see Taylor Hicks," (and that is worth Millions of dollars right there to producers), and "the song doesn't give him much to do" (except sing the song exactly the way the song was meant to be sung, and with the type of flair that he showed on American Idol that America loved so much). He does come out at curtain call, singing, dancing and playing the harmonica like no other Teen Idol has done before, so why not give him credit for that. I so ENCOURAGE people to buy his new CD in March, and listen to his new single "What's Right is Right", being released this week. They built this National Tour around Taylor's performance on Broadway, because he brought the show back to life. And yes, we really are his fans, and can't wait to see him in it. I think anyone attending this show will have a new appreciation for the man Taylor Hicks.


01.25.2009 at 11:31 Reply
I did not go to the preformance yesterday to see Taylor Hicks. Yes, I would agree it was an added bonus as he did perform well during the show. However, the real actor that my daughter and I felt stood out was Eric Schneider. He out performed everyone. I was amazed at how much his voice and his mannerisms mimicked John Travolta. I am looking forward to seeing this young actor and other performances.


02.14.2010 at 06:32 Reply
I was terribly disappointed by this show.which came off just a step above a high school production. The Pink Ladies sounded like a bunch of chipmunks--all speaking in the high pitched voice that was annoying enough in the movie when we only had to listen to Frenchie! The T-Birds outclassed their girls without question--delivering a much more solid and entertaining performance. I would have left before intermission if I had been by myself but we were with a group--some of whom had not seen a professional musical. I felt horrible that I had suggested this one! I agree almost 100% with the review above by Rick Pender. I actually felt bad for Taylor Hicks when he stayed around to sing after the show because so many people were walking out on him! He is not "my thing" but I would never leave during a performance! I say stay home and rent the movie if you need a "GREASE" fix!