On Stage: Grease

Word is if you’re looking for a rockin’ time on a summer night this week, The Muny is the one that you want.

Gah, I always feel dirty after writing a lead like that.

“Grease,” the popular ’70s musical about teens growing up in the ’50s, is currently hand-jiving its way across The Muny stage in Forest Park. It’s high-energy fun for all ages.

What new can be said about “Grease?” Even if you haven’t seen it performed live you’ve probably seen the 1978 film version with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. And if by chance you haven’t seen any version, you’ve probably heard songs from the show, like “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “You’re The One That I Want,” “Greased Lightnin'” or the title track. It’s certainly one of the most successful musicals of the last 40 years.


But whether your experience with “Grease” is at the Sandra Dee level or the Rizzo, there’s a lot to recommend about the current production playing in St. Louis.

Set at Rydell High in 1959, “Grease” looks at the lives of two groups of teen misfits — the T-Birds and their female counterparts, the Pink Ladies. Danny (Brandon Espinoza) spent the summer at the beach where he encounters lovely but chaste Sandy (Taylor Louderman). Sandy has transferred to Rydell where her innocent nature puts her at odds with the Pink Ladies and threatens her relationship with Danny.

But you probably already knew all that.

Director/choreographer Denis Jones keeps the show moving at a brisk pace and has put together some terrific dance numbers, highlighted by “Born to Hand Jive” at the high school hop. Andrea Lauer’s costumes take us back in time while set designer Tim Mackabee makes creative use of the large stage to handle a variety of scene changes.

The cast was quite accomplished, particularly Louderman. St. Louis native Phyllis Smith (Phyllis from NBC’s “The Office”) returns to the Muny stage (she appeared last year in “Nunsense”) for the role of Miss Lynch.

The show-stopper award goes to Teressa Kindle as Teen Angel for her fiery performance of “Beauty School Dropout.” I’ve always found that song to be one of the duller parts of the show but the number as performed in this production really brings the house down.

“Grease” runs through Aug. 8. http//muny.org/




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