Monday, April 27, 2015

Grease—Broadway Rose—Tigard, OR

“Thanks for the Memories”

This iconic musical is written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey and directed and choreographed by Jacob Toth with musical direction by Jeffrey Childs.  It is playing at their home location at 12850 SW Grant Ave. in Tigard through May 24th.  For more information, go to their site at www.broadwayrose.org

Musicals of that “simpler time,” the 50’s & 60’s, are good reminders of our history, such as Hairspray and West Side Story.  Remember the days of drive-ins (both restaurants & theaters), piercing ears, rock ‘n’ roll, cheap wine, Twinkies, roller rinks, hot cars and chicks, acne, sock hops, et. al….when all the guys were in love with Annette and all the gals with Frankie Avalon….when 45’s (the records, not the guns) were all the rage, the Mickey Mouse Club or American Bandstand was top TV watching for teens and hot-rodding down Main Street was probably the worst trouble you could get in?  And we shivered with the original The Blob, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing.

Those were the days, my friends, we thought they’d never end…”  Well, in this production, we are treated to going back in time to relive them for a couple of hours.  Before there was Facebook and tweeting, Columbines and Sandy Hook’s, “friends with benefits” and Aids…a time before “…the music died.”  Believe me, it is time well spent, not only for the oldsters who lived them but for the young’uns who could learn from them.  Maybe those days are gone but not forgotten, as we take a stroll down memory…to Rydell High in the 50’s.

The two main species at large in this world are the Greasers, led by Danny (Peter Liptak) with Kenickie (Max Artsis), Roger (Bryce Earhart), Doody (Paul Harestad), and Sonny (Justin Canfield).  Their counter-parts are The Pink Ladies, led by Rizzo (Claire Rigsby), with Sandy (Kylie Clarke Johnson), a new recruit, Frenchy (Emma Holland), Marty (Sydney Weir), and Jan (Amanda Pred).  Then, of course, there are the Insiders (Cheerleaders), led by Patty (Kira Batcheller), the Outsiders (kids from another school), led by Cha-Cha (Lindzay Irving), the Nerds, led by Eugene (Collin Carver) and, finally, the dreaded adults, the principal, Miss Lynch (Quimby Lombardozzi) and the radio DJ, Vince (Adam Davis).  This is their world and welcome to it.

Once upon a time…it seems that Danny and Sandy met for brief romance in a summer of love.  But, now that reality, the school year, has set in, he must assume the role of a cool dude, meaning that he’s expected to play the field.  She is heartbroken and aligns herself with friends that try to straighten her out from her straight-laced upbringing to face the facts of life.  It is a harsh world out there not reflected by the movies with Sandra Dee, Doris Day, Troy Donahue or Rock Hudson.

It involves growing pains, “Those Magic Changes,” like dealing with long distant romances, “Freddy, My Love,” and reality, “Beauty School Dropout,” and “Alone at a Drive-In Movie.”  But one still can dream of the ultimate, a hot car, “Greased Lightning,” or the perfect mate, “Summer Nights,” to find out, in the long run, “You’re the One I Want.”  It is a dream, well-told, with music, songs, tears, laughter and dance.  The lost years are here again to tantalize us, challenge us and direct us to what was then our goal…to “…live happily ever after.”  After all, those “salad days” never really left us because they are still there, inside us, waiting to be revived.  The ball is now in your court…?!

The cast is uniformly excellent, proving they are all at the top of their game, “a triple threat” in dancing, singing and acting.  Rigsby is hot and owns the stage when she’s on.  Johnson is the perfect girl-next-door, the one that is dreamed of, but just out of reach.  Liptak is super as Danny, looking, as well as performing the part, to a tee.  I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role.  And Carver, as the nerd and the Teen Angel, proves once again, “there are no small parts….” He’s is electric whenever he’s onstage and knocks his solo number out of the park, as well as being the ultimate, nerdy guy.  (A side note, I also touted him in productions at OCT’s Young Professionals Company and he’s still got the clout.)

Toth’s direction and choreography is amazing.  He could have had the audience rocking with them, as his song and dance numbers are very contagious.  Only thing stopping us may have been that all “the right stuff” is now in the wrong places.  And Childs music compliments the show as well, never overpowering but inspiring.  The designs, Costumes, Jessica Carr, Scenic, Owen Walz, Lighting, Phil McBeth and Sound, Tim Richey, are likewise a perfect fit for a dream show.

(Another side note, I directed Liptak some moons ago in the title role in the musical, Oliver.  His whole family is involved with show biz, as his sister is connected with cable TV series’s, his Mother is a House Manager in many Portland theatres and his Dad is a Musical Director of shows.  It is good to know that “greasepaint” is in their blood and that they support and encourage their children in the Arts.  Parents, take note.)

I highly recommend this production.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis send you.