Dickens wrote about ‘The worst of times; the best of times” but he was referring to the French Revolution – not one’s teenaged years. Obviously he could have been signifying both, for most of us the 15 to 17 year-old era, was an emotional apogee and perigee. For playwrights it was a mother lode: – think “Rebel Without a cause; “American Graffiti”; ‘Saturday Night Fever’, and of course –“GREASE”.
Meadowvale Music Theatre relishes the opportunities as well as the challenges endemic with staging a large cast musical and the Jim Jacobs/Warren Casey blockbuster is fertile ground. Under director Danny Harvey, this epitomic 60’s – 70’s reminiscence recalls the styles, desires; pop melody formats, angst, and mobility aspirations we all had to endure. Remember acne? Harvey is an equal opportunity employer; he realizes that for such a genre to be successful, song AND dance need to share the stage equally, and in this particular rendering, they do. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable break from our record-breaking cold February’s. His cast selections meet the necessary talent criteria and his enlisting of Cathy Smith to choreograph and Bob Hardinge to direct the orchestra make this a highly professional effort.
Harvey’s pace is rapid without being frenetic and his blocking impeccable. Smith’s chorus numbers are intricate yet evocative of the era’s popular dance structures. Strength demands and agility are obvious in many of her more intricate arrangements. The nine or so sets are illustrative rather than detailed with props, but the essence is easily grasped.
The simplistic plot deals with the High School cliques and stereotypes as seen through the two protagonists who met over the summer and then coincidently re-unite when the School’s new semester begins. Danny neither the director nor this reviewer) is the ‘Tony’s (West Side Story; Saturday Night Fever) or the ‘Fonz’ types and Ryan Gauvin takes soupçons of all three in his rendering of his character. The love interest is ‘Sandy’ and Jenn Johnson brings credible ingenuousness to her persona. Both leads have the requisite voices to carry off the demanding solos and duets the play include, especially Johnson’s popular hit number ‘Hopelessly devoted to you’ which brought Olivia FigNewton-John to fame. Gauvin brings a robust charisma to his Danny that makes the character’s BMOC quality true &convincing.
There are some outstanding support depictions. Mark Jones is ‘Doody’ and his Presley-like guitaring is a spot-on rendering. Laura Moniz fleshes out her Marty character into an almost leading status. The significant role of ‘Frenchy’ is ably portrayed by Stefani Dicks while Matt Willis as Sonny is a standout. Physically impressive, he also displays thespian as well terpsichorean talent. I kept seeing him as Paul LeMat’s “John” impression in “American Graffiti” and hope MMT utilizes him in future productions.
There is a pivotal role in Grease that like “Iago”; ‘OG’ or “Sancho Panza” are true theatre opportunities. Betty Rizzo is the ‘bad girl’ of the school and Amanda Dwyer has that plum. Her first Act representation fails to capture the quintessence or spirit of her character, but post-interval, Dwyer comes alive and her representation is powerful and empathetic.
The musical score; direction; cast and staging make Grease a pleasure to witness, even if one has seen either a previous incarnation or the movie. Get out your Brylcream™ & a pocket comb; put on a leather jacket and head for Meadowvale Theatre on Montevideo before March 1st to see why ♪Grease is the word!