In Raucous 'Grease' The Slip-ups Are Few

August 02, 1991|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing writer

Granted, I haven't yet seen "The Pajama Game," but I have a hunchthat the biggest hit of the summer of '91 is going to be "Grease," the raucous, '50s-inspired musical just opened by the Annapolis SummerGarden Theatre's junior cast.

Under the direction of Bobbi Smith and Tom Magette, the kids -- some of them students from local high schools, others college sophomores-to-be home for the summer -- have produced a zippy, funny, shaking-rattling-rolling account of this popular musical.

Bobbi Smith really has these kids moving. Her choreography is professionally conceived and beautifully executed, from the hilarious toe-dance accompaniment to "Freddy My Love" to the energetichigh jinks of the "Hand Jive" sequence. Even the curtain call is special. The kids are funny, animated and very well-prepared.

FOR THE RECORD - A corrective note: In last Friday's review of "Grease," I misnamed the young lady who did such a wonderful job bringing the obnoxious Patty Simcox to life. She is Tiffani Baldwin, a 16-year-old junior-to-beat Severna Park High School.
Sorry, Tiffani. Your career is taking off just as I'm starting to go senile.

Most members of this cast are exceptionally talented.

Andrew Chapin and Nicole Roblyer make an attractive leading couple. Roblyer, a graduate of Broadneck High School and a student at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, does beautifully as sweet, innocent Sandy Dombrowski, while Chapin's Danny Zuko is terrific. Both sing very well and handle comedy like pros. Chapin is particularly funny in the drive-in movie scene with his indecisive groping, while "Sandy" is great fun to watch as the world's klutziest cheerleader.

There are many other distinguished performances.

Among the women, Tiffani Hall is wonderful as the goodie-goodie, all around dingbat Patty Simcox. The talented Alisha Snider excels as Marty, the love 'em and leave 'em floozy, and I adored Lauren Kirby as Jan, the "sophisticate" who guzzles Italian Swiss Colony with Twinkies because the label says it's a dessert wine.

Stacy Schwartz is also very good as the tough yet vulnerable Betty Rizzo. She delivered Rizzo's soliloquy "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" with real style, despite a crummy accompanying tape that pooped out once or twice while she was singing. The kid's a pro.

And Pam Diedrich as Cha-Cha DiGregorio has to be seen to be believed. I was a baby in the '50s, but in the '60s we called them skags. Yeesh.

Among the fellows, Brendan Greeley uses his facial and kinetic energy to steal numerous scenes as "Kenickie," Danny's sidekick, and SethSnider is a riot as the moronic "Doodie" who learns four guitar chords and becomes the gang's resident rock star.

There are three featured players who should work with their roles and take them a bit further. "Frenchy," the ditzy dropout from beauty school, is a very funny character who could be played for more laughs than she was Wednesday night.

The young man playing Eugene, the class nerd, must project much, much more and speak more slowly. He looks terrific but his lines are all but lost, which is a shame. They're hysterical.

And "Rump," the mooning champ of Rydell High, needs to concentrate more on words and pitch in his song and not do quite so much "shtick." First things first.

Among the ensemble numbers, only "Greased Lightning"failed to come off. It's tough to sing and do all that demanding choreography at the same time, but this is too good a song to let pass.

For most of the evening, the accompanying tape was too loud, especially during the prom sequence, when too many funny lines were lost to the electric piano and an out-of-tune saxophone. Some judicious dial twiddling is in order.

These minor reservations aside, "Grease" has the makings of a hit. The midweek audience was large and extremely receptive to these young people.

Don't be left all alone at the drive-in movie. Go see "Grease," and you won't feel like it's rainingon prom night. There are worse things you could do.

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