Runaway Stage’s newest play isn’t the Grease you saw at the movies. This production reaches back to the original 1972 off-Broadway show, when the musical had more grit and grease. The original musical, though never a heavy social statement, touched more on class issues while showcasing the crude behavior and language of a tough teen crowd.
The 1978 movie starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta sanitized much of the story and salty talk. Because Australian singer Newton-John was high on the pop charts at the time, the storyline was changed to make Sandy an innocent exchange student landing in a 1950s-era pseudo-tough high school.
In Runaway’s production, Sandy isn’t an Australian exchange student (a fact noted by a few audience members), they don’t sing the film song “You’re the One that I Want,” the raunchy talk is rampant, and the first act ends in a full-monty moon.
The moon and mouthy teens are a pleasant change for anyone looking for a pure Grease experience, but the play is not recommended for young kids and movie fans looking for that sweet Sandy story. What this production does have is two strong leads with great voices: Tristan Rumery as Danny and Stephanie Keeney as Sandy. They’re backed up by real high-school kids playing the roles of, well, high-school kids (with a couple of exceptions).
The six-person live rock ’n’ roll band emits energy to the familiar tunes of “Greased Lightening,” “We Go Together” and “Born to Hand Jive.” The costumes are fun, and the two-tiered staging is clever, but Runaway Stage really should work on its flimsy sets and poor sound system. They take away from a professional look and feel.