Thursday, March 18, 2004
"Grease" was definitely the word Tuesday night at the Lied Center, though parts of the Phoenix Productions touring show could have used a little more oil.
Just the opening melodies of perennial favorites like "Greased Lightnin'" and "Summer Nights" elicited smiles from the audience, but there were a few glitches that kept "Grease" from running smoothly.
The most obvious problem had nothing to do with the actors or the show. Technical difficulties several times throughout the program left actors with malfunctioning microphones, and their lines faded in and out. Most affected by the small crisis was everybody's favorite radio announcer, Vince Fontaine, and his witty scene-to-scene commentary.
Several of the actors struggled with volume problems of their own. During scenes with excited dialogue and song, the cast competed, leaving the audience unable to make out some of the funnier moments. Timing and volume control would have made given these scenes more impact.
Although everyone in the cast was obviously talented, Beckley Andrews, the actress who portrayed perky cheerleader Patty Simcox, overacted a bit. Andrews could sing and dance with the best of her colleagues -- and Patty is supposed to be an animated character -- but Andrews' performance would have been more enjoyable with a dose of restraint.
The seemingly misplaced rendition of Sandy's anthem, "Hopelessly Devoted to You," also could have used some fine tuning. Actress Tiana Checchia appeared solo on the darkened stage and belted out the longing love song. It seemed an awkward moment in the forward action, and the actress let the volume of her voice overpower the melodic number.
Regardless of these shortcomings, Tuesday's performance still proved to be an entertaining rendition of the beloved musical. Its success can be attributed to the energy and enthusiasm the actors seemed to feel for the characters and the story.
One of the production's biggest strengths was superb choreography by Christopher Gattelli. In the hand-jive scene, the actors danced their way across the stage in a fast-paced, jitterbugging fashion that was astounding. The "Beauty School Dropout" sequence was also thrilling to watch.
"Grease" is a tough production to get wrong. The love stories of Sandy and Danny and the rest of the crew at Rydell High continue to captivate audiences of all ages. This production was no different, but a little work would make it even better.