Thursday September 21st 2017

“GREASE”

There are some musicals that just keep giving- allowing theater audiences an opportunity to see a show where the music is so familiar, they know most of the words. “Grease”, the ultimate celebration of teen years on the northwest side of Chicago, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, is one of these special musicals. It is the 1950’s and we visit  a student body made up of “greasers”, “greaser girls”,”nerds” and “Cheerleader types” as Jacobs and Casey witnessed at their Alma mater, Taft High School in Chicago. The original play was called “Greased Lightning” and was more about the “greasers”, the loners, the losers and burn-outs and played mostly is smaller, intimate theaters. As the story evolved and the characters changed, a movie was born which brought the world to see . Rydell High School became more California with palm trees instead of “bungalows” and the main characters became more hip and cool despite their true inner beings being greasers and losers. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta rose to greater fame  as they portrayed Danny and Sandy and the music and dance productions made Americans become very familiar with songs like “Summer Nights”,”Hopelessly Devoted”, “Born To Hand Jive”,”You’re The One That I Want”,”Beauty School Drop-out”  and many more.

While this is a play that belongs in a smaller theater allowing the audience to feel as if they are truly peeking in on the lives of these teens, I must admit that the Paramount Theatre, that glorious venue in downtown Aurora under the direction of Michael Unger , is able to transform the intimacy to a larger stage on a magnificent set by James Dardenne, which in a way becomes a character itself. The set is designed to have the back wall filled with projections(Dardenne handled this as well) and for the “Grease Lighting” number as well as the Drive-In, a 1956 Chevrolet has been rebuilt to bring on stage. It is a four door made to be a convertible ( hardly noticeable) but adds to the overall magic of  Unger’s direction and the slick choreography by Dana Solimando. The young energetic cast dances up a storm in this show with some very solid leaps , jumps and gymnastic type steps. Jared Moore’s lighting is just right and the costumes by Jeremy W. Floyd are a bit different  from what we have seen before, but work. Adam Rosenthal handles the sound and the props ( some neat stuff) are designed by Joel William Lambie.    

The technical part of the show is awesome and the talent very strong. Some new twists to the show have been added to give it some new life. Remember, this is a show that is done almost every year, somewhere in the area, so it is important to give audiences a reason to see it again. As I said earlier, the strength of the cast outweighs the largeness of the auditorium. Skylar Adams does a nice job with Danny, although it took him a little while before I found him to be a real Danny. It is possible that having recently seen a production where Adrain Aguilar ( who does a great job as Kenickie in this production) hit the character to perfection from the get-go, but after a few scenes, his bubbly personality and strong singing voice took over. Emma Ritchie, a newcomer  has a great voice and once you get past her physical appearance ( not the usual look of Sandy) you start to really love her. Her transformation is truly one that is inspiring.

The other “Pink Ladies”, Marty ( the lovely Darcy Wood), Frenchy (Tiffny Trainer),Rizzo ( Jessica Kingsdale, who will send chills down your spine when she does”There Are Worse Things I Could Do”), and Jan ( The adorable and funny Lara Mainer who with Roger,J. Michael Finley make an incredible couple of “losers” who find each other) are all well cast as are the “Burger Palace Boys”, Doody (Sean Effinger-Dean) and Sonny (Creg Sclavi) who along with Danny,Kenickie and Roger work well together. The ensemble of players and of note, Jeff Max who does Vince Fontaine and the Teen Angel solidly and the beautiful, leggy and very limber Jaclyn Burch as Cha-Cha DiGregorio who truly is a remarkable dancer and of course Glory Kissel who does a strong Miss Lynch, Shanna Heaverly as Patty Simcox ( the cherleader, goody-two shoes) and Cory Stonebrook as Eugene ( the nerd).

The orchestra under the direction of Deb Stevenson fills this large theater with great sound, yet never allows the instruments to outweigh the voices of the talent on stage. Michael Keefe’s musical direction makes for strong interpretation of the work and allows both young and old audience members to appreciate what was in the late 1950’s as presented in this production. “Grease” will continue at The Paramount Theatre located in downtown Aurora at 23 E. Galena through October 7th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.,Fridays at 8 p.m.,Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 1 and 5 p.m.

Tickets range from $34.90-$46.90 ( I know, sounds weird) and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at  630-896-6666 or online at www.ParamountAurora.com

If you subscribe to the entire series, you buy two-get two free- a solid value!

Valet parking is available at the door ( only $9.00) plus there is street parking and a nearby lot. There are lots of great dining spots within walking distance of the Paramount and of course a casino a pull of the slot handle away. Aurora is  easy to get to from the area with the toll road system. Check the website for more information.

To learn more about “Grease”, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “Grease”

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4 Comments for ““GREASE””

  • Chicago Theater says:

    Your reviews always have grammar and spelling mistakes. Please have someone proofread them before they are published. You lose credibility when they are published without corrections because it appears that you’ve rushed to get your work done. An audience will not take a review seriously if it looks like it was poorly written. I’m not the only one who feels this way about your work. I say all this to help you, not to be a jerk. Sorry if it hurts to hear the truth, but you can fix it and turn things around for yourself. All the best.

    • Alan Bresloff says:

      Thanks for your comments- Yes, I do my reviews right away, while fresh on my mind and the fact that I have 5 newspapers who translate to a different language with different deadlines. I rely on Spell check and people who read them to contact me when they see a huge error.
      Many reviewers, who print as well as do online have typos. It does go with the territory as in many cases we are trying to get the word out on a production so our readers can see if this is a show they want to see. We all, I am sure, do our best to offer the cleanest review possible, but, all feel that it is of great importance to get the word out as soon as possible so we can be an asset to the company

      I will try harder and I thank you for taking the time to offer your assistance

      Al

  • gwen says:

    Hi Al,

    Is this play appropriate for children?

    Thank you,
    Gwen


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