June 9, 2014 at 9:54 AM
The ever durable, perennial favorite “Grease" is a lively, infectious finale to the Paper Mill Playhouse season.
The show, it seems, has been around forever and captures a 1950s vibe with its rock & roll tunes and high school angst. “Summer Nights” sets the stage for nostalgia.
Sandy meets Danny on a beach during the summer. They fall for each other, but go their separate ways. But then Danny is stunned when Sandy shows up at Rydell High. Suddenly, he realizes that she has seen another, sweeter side of him. At the local high school, he comes across as a tough guy.
Well, the plot thickens, more or less. Taylor Louderman is a pert and perky Sandy and sings a soulful “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” She nicely captures the innocence of the girl next door. Bobby Conte Thornton as Danny has a bit of the John Travolta swagger as he struts and preens before all the girls.
But a close second is the rugged, all-American boy, Kenickie, played by Shane Donovan. He could also have been a contender for the role of Danny. His number, “Greased Lightnin” with a replica of a 1950s car on the stage, is great fun. He’s mostly paired with Betty Rizzo, played by Morgan Weed. She has the hard exterior to make you think she doesn’t care about others’ opinions, but of course she does. And she does a clever, catty take with “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee.”
Some of the actors appear to be too mature to be convincing as high school students, especially several of those in the female roles.
One of the best numbers in the show is “Beauty School Dropout,” a dream sequence where Frenchy (Dana Steingold) is faced with giving up high school and starting a career in a beauty salon. Telly Leung is a terrific Teen Angel. It’s too bad he doesn’t have a larger part as he really knows how to deliver the words and music.
The musical, directed by Daniel Goldstein, has all the familiar songs, both from the movie and the stage production. Choreography by Joann M. Hunter adds to the snappy action and costumes by Martin Parledinaz neatly reflect the 1950s era. Music director Brad Simmons adds a provocative beat and the orchestra is often front and center.
The plot is rather mindless, at best, but the Paper Mill is apparently packing them in for this funfest, with teens as well as parents and grandparents in the mix.
“Grease” continues through June 29. For tickets, call (973) 376-4343 or visit PaperMill.org.
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