Encore Michigan

Riverbank’s ‘Grease’ timeless and tuneful

Review July 16, 2019 Paula Bradley

MARINE CITY, Mich.–The gals are wearing circle skirts and scarves, the guys are strutting about in leather jackets and slicked hair, and the tunes are rockin’ and rollin’ at Rydell High!  Grease, a musical story set in the 1950s which now boasts multiple generations of fans, is playing at the Riverbank Theatre in Marine City, under the direction of Brittany Everitt Smith, with Music direction by Colleen Everitt.

Audiences never tire of “good girl/bad boy” love stories, nor the classic themes of young love and teenage drama, and Grease capitalizes on that dynamic.  Naïve Sandy (Brianna Brady) is the new girl in town who falls for Danny (Matthew Skrovan) in a teenage summer romance.  When they unexpectedly find themselves at the same high school as the school year begins, Sandy begins to wonder which Danny is the real one: the sweet boy she fell for, or the aloof bad boy he portrays in front of his friends.

Danny and Sandy’s on-again, off-again relationship is at times bolstered or hindered by the other central characters, mainly beautician wanna-be Frenchy (Cheyenne Bolt), wild girl Rizzo (Bianca Calisi) and tough Kenickie (Joshua Krol). The girls’ clique, the “Pink Ladies,” realizes quickly how innocent and inexperienced Sandy is, and they sometimes support her and sometimes mock her.  Meanwhile Danny’s gang, the T-Birds, is only interested in knowing if Sandy will “go all the way.”

Deep down, Danny wants to impress Sandy, and even joins the track team to prove himself to her, but during one of their splits he asks someone else to be his date for the school dance. Kenickie (recently split with Rizzo) shows up to the dance with a vibrant and sassy outsider named Cha Cha (Nichole Sirko), who commandeers Danny for the Hand Jive contest, and Sandy goes home with yet another broken heart. Rizzo continues to make Sandy feel like an outsider, but Sandy reaches out to her with kind words during a rough situation, and not only begins to break down Rizzo’s tough exterior, but also gives Sandy an inspiration for repairing her relationship with Danny.  With Frenchy’s help, Sandy undergoes a transformation that finally gets Danny’s attention once and for all. 

The cast of Grease is full of talent and energy.  Acting, singing and dancing is well executed across the board.  Brady is well cast as Sandy, exuding naiveté and showing off her sweet voice.  She has a good dynamic with Skrovan as Danny, and their voices blend nicely.  The most vigorous performances may be from Calisi as Rizzo and Krol as Kenickie.  They are feisty and cheeky, and they capitalize on their solo opportunities in “Greased Lightnin’” and “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.”

There are some weaknesses in the script, mainly regarding chronology.  This show would benefit from being a bit longer, with more time to connect the scenes and push the show from a series of plot events into a cohesive story.  And some of the best scenes are too short; in particular, “Born to Hand Jive” and the finale of “We Go Together Reprise” don’t fully capitalize on the high energy of the music and choreography. An early issue with audio quality improved somewhat throughout the show.

This doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t many enjoyable and endearing moments:  Jan (Katy McCutcheon) and Roger “Rump” (Ian Francis) discover an unexpected connection (“Mooning”); Marty (Lauren Mackenzie Riggs) channels the glamour of a starlet; Frenchy enjoys a dreamlike vision of the Teen Angel (Aaron Dennis Smith) (“Beauty School Dropout”); the T-Birds transform Kenickie’s beat-up car into a hot rod on stage (“Greased Lightnin’”); Rump and Doody (Zachary Burnham) perform an unplugged duet (“Rock ‘N Roll Party Queen”).

Grease dances around a few mature topics, but young teens through adults of any age will be able to enjoy the boppin’ 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, the energetic choreography and the story of teenage love.    Grease is playing at The Riverbank Theatre in Marine City through August 11, 2019.

Week of 11/27/2023

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