The Howard – Theater Review – GREASE at The Ivoryton Playhouse

 

Theater Review by Howard Steven Frydman
Production:                   GREASE
Theater:                          The Ivoryton Playhouse
Book, Music & Lyrics: Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey
Director:                         Todd L. Underwood

GREASE” is the word indeed- spelled- Groovy- Radioactive- Electric- Aces – Swingin’- and oh so Endearing! It’s GREASE- The musical.

Hey all you greasers! Summer is here and for a real “Kool” ring a ding-ding good time – pull up your ‘45 hydromatic Chevy with overhead lifters and some four barrel quads and head over to the grooviest hangout in town- “The Ivoryton Playhouse” for their current production of “Grease”. This production, has book, lyrics and music by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, directed and choreographed by Todd L. Underwood, and at center stage – Johnny Newcomb as Danny Zuko and Kimberley Immanuel portraying Sandy.

The story- think Romeo and Juliet, Gidget and MoonDoggie, Annette and Frankie – here it’s the ultimate tale as old as time – boychick meets girlchick -50’s style. Meet kool “Greaser” Danny Zuko and wholesome “Sandra Dee-like” Sandy Dumbrowski- two lovestruck kids who meet over a sultry summer. Unbeknownst to both- at the start of the school year -they end up returning  to the same school- Rydell High – ( btw named after teen idol Bobby Rydell). 

Johnny Newcomb as Danny Zuko and Kimberley Immanuel portraying Sandy.

Troubles begin when Danny who wants to maintain his coolness with his gang Burger Palace Boys/(The T-Birds), which includes his best friend Kenickie (Natale Pirrotta) along with Doody, (Luke Linsteadt) Sonny (Max Weinstein) and Roger (Taylor Morrow) gives Sandy the Cold-shoulder. Coming to Sandy’s aide are the Pink Ladies- Rizzo (Alyssa V. Gomez) Marty (Taylor Lloyd) Jan (Audrey Wilson) and Frenchy (Katelyn Bowman) – who dreams of going to Beauty School), along with the ever cheerful cheerleader, Patty Simcox (Alexa Racioppi) who help transform the saddle shoe, poodle skirted Sandy into a hard rocking “Greaser-ette”.

My top three all-time favorite summer musicals –  “The Music Man”, “Bye Bye Birdie and of course “Grease” – all bouncy, memorable musicals that leave you with a smile and humming their various show tunes all the way home. Over the years I have seen countless renditions of all three- my first on stage sampling of “Grease” was actually staged at my alma mater – Central Connecticut State University- it was FANTASTIC! Since its inception, Grease over the years has played out like a kids game of “Telephone” – from its Chicago 1971 ravenously raw and raunchy conception, onward to Broadway, where in 1972, it played at the Eden Theatre, the Broadhurst and then the Royale, – each time getting a bit more softened and homespun. The 1978 movie version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John incorporated new plots and new songs including, “Grease”, “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” and “You’re the One That I Want.”

As many folks know I am a stickler for tradition- regarding “Grease”- I want to see an original BROADWAY version- this production does play out more like a live production of the film- taking elements from the original Broadway offering and the film version. 

Firstly, I want to encourage everyone to see this production- it’s a well known musical and a perfect summer outing. Secondly, I’m a reviewer- so sometimes we see things in a different light. I want to see a production when every cast member is on their “A-Game”- emphasis EVERY ONE and so should you! So now some light- house keeping. This staging of Grease has a large cast of 22 performers- one’s eyes flicker from one cast member to another and it’s hard not to notice a disingenuous performance. From a few not all. I took note that a few cast members either seemed distracted or did not have their minds on their performance. I kept saying to myself- “hey guys – remember the old adage this audience is seeing this performance for the first time, make them feel like this is opening night”.

With that said, I do want to single out several of our cast for their excellent performances, firstly- Luke Linsteadt as “Doody” – an absolutely stunning performance, I so enjoyed his rendition of “Those Magic Changes”; Miss Taylor Lloyd as “Marty” – you stole the show with your performance of “Freddie My Love”; Taylor Morrow as “Roger” – you had me laughing out loud with your “Mooning”; Miss Alexa Racioppi as “Patty Simcox”- an absolutely charming performance, and finally the coveted “Howard Noticed You Award” goes to Mr. Max Weinstein as “Sonny” – I so enjoyed your wide eyed emoting throughout, great comedic timing- one could tell you genuinely wanted to entertain and we were definitely entertained by your performance. I strongly urge the Ivoryton to consider Mr. Weinstein for a leading role in their next production. Enjoy!

“Grease” runs at the Ivoryton Playhouse through July 29, 2018. Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Additional matinee performances are on Saturday, July 7, 14 and 28 at 2pm. For tickets or info please call the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at www.ivorytonplayhouse.org  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.) The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.

Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at howards2424@gmail.com.

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