by DICK KEREKES
America’s favorite teenage musical, Grease is back and better than ever before on stage at the Moran Theatre in downtown Jacksonville until May 2nd 2010. You have seen ads for new and improved products, well; the same can be said for the current version of Grease
I would guess half of the large opening night audience wasn’t even born when Grease debuted in 1971, and went to win the Tony Award for Best Musical, and then played 3,388 performances. It has had a number of successful revivals, most which have been presented by the Artist Series in the past. It is the 13th longest running show in American Musical Theatre History.
The plot has not changed. It is still the students at Rydell High school, looking for fun and romance, dancing and singing. What has changed is the show has been somewhat sanitized. Oh, there are still some sexual references but they seem to zip by and downplayed. The script appears to have been edited since the first act timed out at 55 minutes. Wow, the first act of a major musical that is less than one hour long!! What is nice is that all the songs that we have known for years are still there.
I said new and improved and there are several areas that stood out. First, all the voices were excellent , from everyone who sang solos to those in the ensemble. Why were they so good? The economy has something to do with it. The recession has created less work for actors in the Big Apple, so many very talented performers who would normally be working all the time in NYC, have taken to the road with the traveling shows.
Secondly, technically the shows are so much better. Sound systems are so good now, and everyone is miked so well that you can hear anywhere in the large auditorium, and without any feedback that used to plague systems years ago.
The lighting improvements have been formidable. Every musical is a light show. Best example of this is what I consider the best song in the show, “Greased Lightin”. This is the scene where the character Kenickie comes on stage with his new automobile, a beat up faded- paint convertible. He and the guys start singing the song, and suddenly cast members dressed as mechanics come out and begin striping away the outside of the car revealing a shiny, hot convertible that they all get in and while singing. This scene alone is worth the price of admission.
If you have seen the advertisements for the show, you know that American Idol Winner Taylor Hicks in the show. No, he is not in the starring role, but has the featured coveted cameo role of Teen Angel, singing “Beauty School Drop Out” in Act II. How popular is Taylor Hicks? He won American Idol with 64 million votes, and that is 4 million votes than John McClain received running for President in 2008. The talented Hicks, was brought back after the final curtain to sing another song to conclude the evening.
This is a fast-paced show with remarkably quick scene changes. As I said, Act I, is less than an hour and it has seven scenes. Again we can thank technology for this with lighter weight set materials and all kinds of lifts and pulleys to bring them on and off.
The costumes are all 1950s and a trip down memory lane for some of us, and a lesson about the past for younger members of the audience. There is a good chance you have seen Grease at least once in your lifetime, since it has been favorite of high schools, and community theatres all over the country. In my unofficial survey at the intermission, I could not find anyone who was not a veteran of at least one Grease production in the past but all agreed they were enjoying “Those Magic Changes” in this 2010 Grease.
GREASE THE MUSICAL review
by DICK KEREKES