Lynn Jessup, Greensboro News & Record
March 19, 2017
Fun fact about “Grease”: Last year, “Grease” the musical was broadcast live on Fox TV.
Fun opinion about “Grease”: There’s no better way to experience the energy that is ” Grease” than sitting in a live performance yourself.
That’s what Community Theatre of Greensboro offers with its version of this classic at the Star Theatre.
There’s a whole new generation discovering this bubble-gum bauble that first hit the Broadway stage in 1972.
Directed by Justin Bulla, theater teacher at Rockingham County High, “Grease” can be a bit dicey at times, but remember, this is a no-lewd-gestures-barred Broadway script. And we’re talking teenagers here, with all their cigarette-sucking, pants-dropping, adult-shocking antics. Remember?
This is a play that satirizes extreme personalities, and they are all present and accounted for here, from the nerd Eugene (Alex McClary) to the delinquent — make that delinquents (there’s always more of them): Smev Farris as Doody, Devante Goolsby as Sonny, Dakota Chester as Kenickie, Nikolas Ebron as Roger and Wyatt Roby, a UNC-Greensboro freshman, as Danny Zuko. Danny (played by John Travolta in the movie version) is featured in three songs.
Roby seems to find his voice in the last song, to the audience’s delight: Turn up the volume, Danny.
Costumes are as demure as a hip-stitched cheerleading skirt that brushes the kneecap (find that nowadays) and as skimpy as a pair of tighty whities. Easily the most sophisticated scene with costumes and performances is “Beauty School Dropout.” OK, whoever made those curler headdresses (Sandra Bayne, costumer) gets an award, and who knew a hair salon cape could look so chic? Kammy Forester’s Frenchy is just edgy-yet-naïve enough. The guardian angel (Michael Jones) who comes to advise Frenchy what to do about her education is real, and he is real good.
Sandy Olsson is played by Maddie Conti, a Trinity High junior. At a mere 16, Maddie holds her own against the older actors and gives the audience a glimpse of a genuine-up-and-coming talent. She’s a teenager playing a teenager, which one might think would be a breeze, but with some 20 songs in this show, each with its own choreography, being a Rydell High student ain’t easy — more, perhaps, like competing in a high school for the gifted and talented.
It was obvious that some students had done their dance homework more than others, but, honestly, that added another layer of humor to the play, albeit inadvertently.
And speaking of dance, Toni Depaoli as Rizzo commands the stage in both choreography and voice, and is mesmerizing in “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” A UNCG drama and dance student, she proves she chose the right major.
Rounding out the Pink Ladies are Carlee Crawford as Marty, “that girl” who attracts older men such as the Dick Clark-ish dance emcee Vince Fontaine (played to perfection by Rodney Speight); Madison McKie as the too-perky cheerleader Patty, and Madison Thorpe as Jan. Thorpe has a long list of credits, and her talent is a boost to this cast.
Kristi Post is over the top as Cha Cha, swirling her crinolines and conjuring up famous film and stage cougars. Traci Miller is the proper principal Miss Lynch, and her joined-at-the-hip secretary is played by Gina Ingrahm.
The ensemble members and back-up band push this performance to reach CTG’s high standards.
As someone who recalls standing in a long line that snaked around the old Terrace Theatre in Friendly Center to see the movie version of “Grease,” this show is part nostalgia, part talent showcase and part millennial tooth-cutting process.
It’s fun, and it’s a go-see.
Lynn Jessup is a Greensboro-based reviewer.
This News & Record arts coverage is supported by contributions to ArtsGreensboro’s Arts & Theatre Media Fund.