'Grease' Is The Word On Wagon Wheel Stage PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 August 2016 14:39

“Grease” is the word at Warsaw’s Wagon Wheel Theatre where the popular musical opened Wednesday evening as the final offering of the regular 2016 season. (The Encore show, “The Full Monty” opens a one-week run Aug. 30.)

The Chicago-originated “Grease” has survived Broadway and West End (London) first runs plus multiple revivals and seemingly endless tours, all without skipping a doo-wah beat.

Grease WAgon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INIts original content, however, has been toned-down, a good thing considering its appeal to younger generations.

It still, in this reviewers opinion (which is shared by many), presents a less-than-acceptable premise — the young and innocent leading lady transforms herself into a less-than-innocent “babe” in order to fit in and win the affections of the gang leader.

Smoking, drinking and casual sex are presented as a matter of course and prerequisites for acceptance by ones peers. Not the premise sought in this age of “be yourself” and hopefully accepted strictly as a part of “the good old days.”

That said, the up-tempo score by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who also wrote the book and lyrics, seems to transcend the script and strikes home with viewers of all ages.

That was the obvious consensus Wednesday evening as a large portion of the WW audience happily joined in when the Pink Ladies and the T-Birds (formerly the Burger Palace Boys) let go with “Born to Hand Jive.” Some muscle memories never die!

As always, the WW production shines with the sharply executed choreography of director Scott Michaels which lifts the production above the ordinary and provides one solid reason for being there.

Grease Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw INKayla Eilers and Sean Watkinson are Sandy and Danny, the miss-matched sweethearts whose relationship is dependent on the opinions of their peers.

He is the leader of the T-Birds, who ignore more rules than they obey, she is the new kid. Their “Summer Nights” romance, which each sees differently, turns cold in the light of high school.

She is befriended by the Pink Ladies, female counterparts of the T-Birds. Members are Jan (Elaine Cotter), who never met a left-over she didn’t like; Marty (Laura Plyler), who has a boyfriend (“Freddy, My Love”) in the Marines; Frenchy (Elaine Cotter), who plans to drop out and enter beauty school; and Rizzo (Lexi Carter), whose “I don’t care” attitude (“There Are Worse Things I Could Do”) seemingly applies to everything.

Her comment to non-smoking Sandy, who refuses a cigarette, “It ain’t gonna kill you,” got a justifiable laugh.

Rizzo’s boyfriend is Kenickie (Keaton Eckhoff), whose primary focus is his car “Greased Lightnin’.” Other T-Birds are Doody (Barrett Riggins), who is learning guitar for “Those Magic Changes,” Roger (Noah Kieserman), who delights in “Mooning”; and Sonny (Caleb Fath), whose comb is his favorite appendage.

Grease  Wagon Wheel Theatre  Warsaw  INOutside are “lesser” characters who prove the old saying about no small parts.

Evan Duff, who has contributed a gem to every production this season, is Eugene, the class nerd, paired with Aria Braswell as Patty Simcox, head cheerleader and all-around goody goody. Miss Lynch (Kathy Hawkins) echoes the frustrations of every high school teacher, Joey Birchler is radio DJ Vince Fontaine, a Dick Clark wanna-be., and Akilah Sailers kicks up her heels (literally) as Danny’s prom date Cha-Cha DeGregorio.

Chuckie Benson delivers a real show-stopper with his second act appearance as Teen Angel. In sequined jacket, pink shoes and Little Richard “do,” he descends with his angelic quartet to urge Frenchy (“Beauty School Dropout”) to go back to high school.

The colorful costume designs by Stephen R. Hollenbeck help greatly in setting the time, as do the equally colorful set design by production designer Michael Higgins and the late Roy Hine and the ‘50s-era wigs by Jennifer Dow. Again. Music director Thomas N. Stirling and his blue ribbon band supply the perfect accompaniment. Chris Pollnow’s sound design keeps everything in balance.

Scott Fuss, most usually seen on stage, served as assistant director.

‘GREASE” plays through Aug. 20 in the theater at 2515 E. Center St. For show times and reservations call (574) 267-8041 or visit www.wagonwheelcenter.org

Last Updated on Saturday, 13 August 2016 21:21

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