The current Broadway Series South Encore Season production of Grease, produced by Phoenix Productions and Magic Arts & Entertainment and directed by Ray DeMattis, proves once again why Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's 1972 musical trip down Memory Lane to the 1950s is a perennial crowd favorite. It is also the fifth-longest running musical in Broadway history.
After staging a preshow dance contest — to get the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium audience in a mellow mood — director Ray DeMattis and his young and talented cast give it their all in a cleverly conceived high-energy production. There are a few rough spots, and some less than scintillating characterizations, but the energy level remains high throughout the evening.
Jamey Isenor and Hanna-Liina Võsa are terrific as swaggering would-be superstud Danny Zuko and his romantically inexperienced goody-two-shoes sweetheart Sandy Dumbrowski, whose innocent aura immediately inspires the Burger Palace Boys and the Pink Ladies to dub her "Sandra Dee" after the contemporary ingénue's ingénue. Before their summer fling can blossom into a full-fledged romance, these two attractive members of the Rydell High School Class of 1959 must buck peer pressure and grow up!
Arthur J.M. Callahan is a ball of fire as WAXX disc jockey Vince "Mr. Coco Loco" Fontaine, Jacqueline Colmer and Danny Smith very funny as tough-talking "bad girl" Betty Rizzo and tough-talking "bad boy" Sonny LaTierri, and Melanie Penn and Scot Patrick Allan hit all the right character notes as bubbly cheerleader Patti Simcox and class nerd Eugene Florczyk.
Genson DeJesolo is very good as hard-rocking Johnnie Casino and the ethereal Teen Angel, and Carolina Burdo makes a great spectacle of herself as the rude and crude Rosalia "Cha-Cha" DiGregario.
With its exuberant choreography by Christopher Gattelli, its peppy pit band under the direction of Steven M. Bishop, its splendid set by James Youmans, and its flamboyant period costumes by Wendall Goings, Grease is still the word in 1950s musical comedies. The lighting design by Mike Baldassari and sound design by Craig Cassidy are also first rate.
Broadway Series South presents Grease Thursday-Friday, March 20-21, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 22, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, March 23, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $17.50-$57.50. 919/834-4000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/844058 [inactive 12/03]. Groups of 20+: 919231-4575 or firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2002-2003/encore.html#grease [inactive 4/04] or http://www.phoenixontour.com/current/index.html (inactive 8/03).