Energy, talent mix in `Grease'

June 10, 1999|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Chesapeake Music Hall has a proven winner in "Grease," an instant smash on Broadway in 1972, a hit movie in 1978 and again last year during the film's 20th anniversary revival.

Director Sherry Kay deserves high marks for dancing and singing that does justice to Jim Jacobs' and Warren Casey's score and for assembling a talented young cast, half of them appearing for the first or second time. In addition to directing and choreography, she designed and built the set, costumed the cast and serves as CMH's general manager.

Anita O'Connor, CMH musical director for the third time, rates bravos too. The numbers involving the entire company are exciting high points, but O'Connor knows how to showcase soloists. Although the dynamics sometimes make singers difficult to hear, a musical tape featuring real instruments is a welcome change from past synthesized music.

Murray Hunt in the leading role of Danny Zuko makes a spectacular debut as a convincing teen-ager, ready to brawl one minute, insecure and self-conscious the next. Hunt is a terrific dancer who sings well and acts skillfully enough to show Danny's innocence under his tough exterior.

Andrea Jopp was impressive in her CMH debut as Rizzo. Jopp's resemblance to Stockard Channing, the movie's Rizzo, is uncanny, but she also gives a sensitive portrayal of the complex and conflicted character. Jopp's rendition of "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" and especially "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" nearly stop the show.

Danielle De Carlo, making a CMH debut as Frenchy, charms the audience with her warmth and comic skill. Returning to CMH after a three-year absence, Tommy Weeks was a good choice for Doody with a voice well-suited to the do-wop songs. In only her second show, Mia Williams is spectacular as Cha Cha, with great dance moves.

Understudy Leslie Rauch did well as cheerleader Patty Simcox, substituting for Sue Bell the first weekend.

David B. Reynolds proves his multi-dimensional talents in cameo roles as brash announcer Vince Fontaine and as the funny Teen Angel.

Jodi Adkins is convincing as Sandy, but I wanted her to dance more and she had difficulty projecting over the soundtrack in "It's Raining on Prom Night" and "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee."

John Rose as Kenickie sang well and gave his all in the dance numbers. Joe Rose danced with athletic grace and supplied the vocal excitement of "Born to Hand Jive."

Charlie Rogers is great fun as the studious Eugene. The entire cast lights up the stage whenever they appear together.

"Grease" runs through July 25, and may be extended. Call Chesapeake Music Hall at 410-626-7515 or 800-406-0306 for information and reservations.

Pub Date: 6/10/99

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