Broadway Across America, Clowes Memorial Hall, March 22-27
High energy fuels this slice-of-life, 1950s, Chicago-based
"working-class youth subculture known as the greasers." We're thrown into a
fictional high school where a rebellious group of ten seniors vow to run the
school on their terms. Complications arise as this tight-knit group also tries
to navigate through relationships and changing dynamics. The seemingly simple
boy-loves-girl-loves-boy plot twists and turns on multiple social issues
(gangs, teen pregnancy, peer pressure) and themes
(love, friendship, sexual exploration and class conflict). The 1950s rock and
roll sound drives the action as the leather-jacketed T-Birds and cotton topped
Pink Ladies become parodies of themselves.
What intrigued audiences when Grease initially opened in
Chicago in 1971 and on Broadway in 1972 was the non-stop aggressiveness of the choreography
and stage direction, exuding raunchy vulgarity. What keeps the musical timely
40 years later is the underlying vulnerability of the core of the ten, making
wise and not-so-wise choices individually and collectively as they try to
survive adolescence. We connect intimately with that frightening interlude. If
memory serves, David O'Brien's direction and Joyce Chittick's
choreography at Clowes is considerably toned down from the original staging by Tom Moore and choreography
by Patricia Birch. What endures, and still captivates, are the striking stage
groupings and the organic throughline from dialogue
to song to movement/dance.
Dominic Fortuna engaged the audience pre-show with local
connections and carried through as DJ at the high school dance. Matt Nolan as
Danny and Alyssa Herrera as Sandy were backed by a strong supporting cast.
Either a faulty sound system or an over-eager orchestra muddied voices during
the first act on March 22. The excellent second act redeemed any glitches.