Flashes of ‘Grease’ Lightnin’
The irrepressible teenage boys who inhabit Jim Jacobs’ and Warren Casey’s 1972 smash Broadway hit “Grease,” which takes place in the 1950s, are mostly concerned with getting a car, a girl and a diploma, in that order. They are a fiction, no less stereotypical than the kids on “Happy Days.”
But that’s part of the fun, particularly in the Huntington Beach Playhouse’s sprightly revival.
The play doesn’t bother us with the honest truth, nor with much with a plot. The standard boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-girl-back thread is all that holds “Grease” together, stringing along some bouncy 1950s-sounding tunes, most of which have nothing to do with the slender story.
Director-choreographer Kysa Cohen is aware of this, and so is musical director Pro Mojica, whose keyboard work, backed up by Adam Alesi on drums, sounds like a much bigger band. The production numbers rock ‘n’ roll along at a fine clip.
The only slow moments are between the songs, in the dialogue scenes, from Marty’s slumber party, which introduces new girl Sandy Dumbrowski, to scenes in the Burger Palace, which seem even slower. The book sections of this show have to bounce along just like the music if only to overcome the shallowness of the writing and for the kids to be as lively as their music.
Some of this lack of tempo is almost made up for by very good--if stereotypical--performances by a first-rate cast. As the star-crossed lovers, a Romeo and Juliet in a beat-up convertible, Danny Buday plays tough guy Danny Zuko trying to be respectable. Anneliese van der Pol as nice girl Sandy tries to inch her way into being hip. He lets a little nice guy show through all along, and she is as anxious as that other Juliet to break the bonds that have been holding her back.
Amanda Loomer might be overdoing the gum-chewing toughness of Rizzo, the school “bad” girl, but the stereotype works well in this context, and John Warner, as Kenickie, her on-again, off-again boyfriend is a perfect match, not too bright, but smart enough to read Rizzo right. Warner also is strong in his solo “Greased Lightning.”
Star Diaz sparkles as Frenchy, the high school dropout who can’t make it in beauty school either. Her tale is told effectively by that perfect period icon Teen Angel, played with nice inner fire by Bryan Malolot.
In the supporting cast, Heather Van Huss stands out as the class nice girl, Marty; Traci Pennington as the prim teacher Miss Lynch; and Josh Lander as the class nerd, whose performance is outsized but fits right in with the spun-candy world of the show.
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* “Grease,” Huntington Beach Playhouse, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Ends Aug. 29. $15. (714) 375-0696. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.
Danny Buday: Danny Zuko
Anneliese van der Pol: Sandy Dumbrowski
Amanda Loomer: Betty Rizzo
Heather Van Huss: Marty
John Warner: Kenickie
Star Diaz: Frenchy
Bryan Malolot: Teen Angel/Potsy
Josh Lander: Eugene Florczyk
Traci Pennington: Miss Lynch
A Huntington Beach Playhouse revival of the Jim Jacobs-Warren Casey musical. Produced by Terri Foy Verhaegen, Bill Verhaegen and Terri Miller Schmidt. Director-choreographer: Kysa Cohen. Musical direction: Pro Mojica. Scenic design: Linda Garran Smith. Lighting/sound design: Technical Creations. Costume design: Dawn Conant. Stage manager: Kelly Tickner.