Sacramento, CA 95814
No one wants to be called “easy,” but when the red jalopy drives on stage with a hunk o’ burnin’ ’50s ducktailed Romeo at the wheel, you know you’re going all the way.
Or at least to the big dance.
Music Circus opens its 62nd season—yeah, longer than any of the actors had been alive, including the one playing the old English teacher—with a perennial favorite, 1973’s Grease. And there’s a reason it’s a favorite; in this case, familiarity most certainly does not breed contempt. It became a hit at roughly the same time as American Graffiti and Happy Days for a reason: The entire nation wanted to take a break from Vietnam, Watergate and gasoline rationing by going back to when some girls were fast, some cars were faster, and all sex was still a big deal.
This production of Grease is perfect for aging Baby Boomers to tap their toes with songs that were popular hits in the ’70s. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” and “You’re the One That I Want,” written for the movie version of Grease starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, were Top 40 hits in the summer of 1978. And, since Music Circus knows how to give the people what they want, both songs from the movie have been added to this stage version of the show.
Energetic performances from a cast (all of whom are visibly beyond high school age) keep things pumping, although there’s a discernable lack of chemistry between bad-boy heartthrob Danny Zuko (Brandon Albright) and sweet, innocent new girl Sandy Dumbrowski (Kirsten Scott). Fortunately, this is a true ensemble show, and there’s more than enough chemistry in other places to keep things moving.
For instance, Lesli Margherita’s Rizzo is suitably defiant—and has great singing chops, too, as she proves with “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” The pair playing awkward—and constantly hungry—lovebirds Jan and Roger (Melissa WolfKlain and Keven Quillon) are a great match, and Cynthia Ferrer’s Miss Lynch, the repressive and repressed aforementioned English teacher, has some very funny bits.
There’s a lot of energy here, and it makes the show fly. Highlights include the wonderful “Beauty School Drop Out” number, with the Teen Angel (Robert J. Townsend) crooning, all while surrounded by a bubble-coiffed, fan-dancing chorus, and the raucous dance-a-rama in the high school gym (“Born to Hand Jive”).
Grease isn’t great art, but you’ll walk out humming—and have a hard time resisting the impulse to sing along. It’s one heckuva good time, complete with a red roadster.