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Grease

by Rita Kohn
March 22, 2011
Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University
4602 Sunset Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317-940-6444
Grease
Book, music & lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Additional songs by Barry Gibb, John farrar, Louis St. Louis, Scott simon
3 stars
Broadway Across America, Clowes Memorial Hall, March 22-27

This review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
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 vows 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 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.
The cast of Grease

The cast of Grease

Photo © & courtesy of Joan Marcus

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