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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 24, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 30
Grease is the word
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Grease is the word

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

GREASE, THE MUSICAL
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through August 2


'Grease' is the word - it's got groove, it's got meaning and it's currently playing at the 5th Avenue Theatre. The little show that could (and did) become a hit blockbuster movie musical has returned to the Seattle stage. Boasting a cast of 'upcomers' in the Seattle theater scene, the musical is one of the most beloved shows in America&at least the movie is.

The story line (for anyone that hasn't seen the 1978 mega-hit film) is about a 'good girl' falling in love with a 'bad boy' set in 1959 Chicago. Over the summer, Sandy met a sweet boy named Danny. When she is transferred to Rydell High, she discovers that Danny is one of the 'tough kids' and the leader of a gang called 'The Burger Palace Boys.' Their counterparts are the 'Pink Ladies,' a group that Sandy becomes friendly with, led by a girl named Rizzo. After several clashes, Danny sets out to be a track star to change for Sandy. Sandy realizes that her 'pure and sweet' behavior is what is holding her back from being with Danny, and changes for him. Both kids cross 'the other side of the tracks' for each other and find a happy meeting in the middle.

The main characters are Danny (played by Bryan Gula) and Sandy (played by Solea Pfeiffer). They are energetic and have good voices. Mr. Gula shows a good balance of trying to be a tough guy while working to impress his sweetheart, Sandy. His voice is good but his dancing abilities leave something to be desired, which caused an eyebrow to lift when he won the 'Dance Contest.' Ms. Pfeiffer does a very good job bringing out the naiveté of her character's sweet and wholesome demeanor. It's only in the final scene that her transformation seems to be rushed. Both actors give enjoyable performances keeping within their characters and handling the vocals well.

But it is the ensemble cast that outshines the main characters in this production, in almost every way. The 'Burger Palace Boys' and 'Pink Ladies' all have embraced their characters. Most of them reclaim the characters from their film counterparts, although one or two do an 'homage' that could be called impersonation. Each of them does a wonderful job, not disappointing the audience vocally or with their characters' actions. Kirsten deLohr Helland plays Rizzo, the leader of the Pink Ladies. Her voice is strong (as she always seems to present), and does justice to taking on the girl with the strong facade. This would be a perfect presentation if only 'anger' wasn't used to demonstrate the character's tough attitude. The song 'There Are Worse Things I Could Do' was sung with bitterness that, for me, took away part of the song's (and especially the character's) vulnerability. She sings the song very well but with an angry interpretation.

Keeping on eye on Kody Bringman, one of the 'Burger Palace Boys' won't be difficult. He not only takes the character of Doody unto himself, but also gives it a little something extra (from this cast and the movie) making him an enjoyable standout to watch. His voice handles the vocals very well, especially during his song 'Mooning' (cut from the movie). You can't help but become endeared to this character, and it's mainly due to the extra and personal touches Mr. Bringman brings to his performance.

The cast of Grease consists of the 'upcoming stars' of the 5th Avenue Theatre. Most of them have acting experience in raw forms. They are young and enthusiastic, just not necessarily experienced in life enough to emote what is required. The cast is good and the show is enjoyable. Most of the songs are familiar to the audience, and it's easy to get caught up in the 'Wop baba lumop a wap bam boom' of the infectious music. It's a fun time waiting. To quote Johnny Casino, 'throw your mittens around your kittens, and away we go!'

BE FOREWARNED: If you are expecting the movie on stage, please remember the stage production came first. While there are songs that have been incorporated into the stage show from the film (due to popularity), this musical follows more the original layout of the stage show and the way it was originally written. Songs appear in a different order (than the film) and are often sung by different characters (than the film). There were several songs in the original production that never appeared in the 1978 movie that the audience may never have heard. While some of them were used in the background of the film (mostly at the dance contest), several songs were replaced with original (film) songs and are included in this production: 'Hopelessly Devoted to You' and 'You're the One That I Want.' While the latter is a great song, it is a shame that the original 'All Choked Up' was replaced, as the finale song, and it is quickly becoming forgotten.



Grease opened on Broadway Valentine's Day 1972 and there it remained until 1980. It was the huge success of the film that propelled the musical to become the 'longest running Broadway show' in history (beaten by A Chorus Line a few years later). The original cast included Barry Bostwick (Danny Zuko) and Adrienne Barbeau (Betty Rizzo) with Jeff Conaway in the ensemble. Later on during the musical's run, the production featured John Travolta (as Doody) and Patrick Swayze (as Danny) among others. The musical was originally nominated for seven (1972) Tony Awards including Best Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Barry Bostwick), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Adrienne Barbeau). It was awarded none. The 1978 movie musical would more than make up for that oversight by the Tony Award Committee when it became a mega blockbuster movie.

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