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In this musical written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, it is 1959 and Rydell high is crowded with defiant, fun-loving students. In the middle of this landscape, Sandy Dumbrowski arrives as the new girl in school. It turns out that over the summer she and Danny Zuko, leader of the Burger Palace Boys gang, have had a brief love affair. While Sandy tells her new classmates about the emotional involvement she had with Danny, he makes of tales about the sexual side of their relationship. As the show progresses the kids at Rydell High have to deal with issues surprising to people who have a romanticized view of the 1950’s; love, gang violence, teen pregnancy, and friendship. In the end, Sandy and Danny work out their differences with each other and their friends and end up together and happy.
I saw this production at the JSU/McClellan Theatre in Anniston, Alabama. The stage in this theatre is of the proscenium type. I think that overall, this is the perfect type of stage for this play but the arrangement of the theatre was a little lacking for this production mainly because of the seating challenges. There were three sections of seating. The middle section was fairly large and centered with the stage. There were two sections on either side that hugged the wall. The section on the far right was behind the orchestra. The orchestra pit was not really a pit and was actually on level with the seating. Therefore, those people in the rows behind the orchestra had a very difficult time seeing over the musicians and instruments; especially the harp that was used in this production. I know this because I was one of those unlucky enough to be sitting behind the aforementioned musicians. I spent the play with my head tilted at an odd angle trying to see around them. What I did have a good view of was the wing, stage left and unfortunately I could see the actors getting ready to make entrances and exits which ruined a little of the ambience. Had I been sitting in the center section and further back I believe it would have been much more enjoyable.
This play had elements of the realistic and the non-realistic. It dealt with very real themes such as teen pregnancy, bullying, peer pressure, drinking, and gang violence. The non-realistic bits were obviously the musical numbers. In real life, we do not just burst into song because we broke up with a boyfriend or girlfriend or had a teenage romance. The sets of this play were not what I would call realistic. They attempted realism but it seemed as if the budget of the play and the way it had to be staged left them with no choice but leave it slightly abstract. The sets were very basic and the car set used for the “Greased Lightning” and ‘Alone at a Drive-In Movie” numbers was very cartoonish. The costumes in this play attempted realism but fell short. In the dance scenes, the dresses looked like leftovers from a 1980’s prom sale that had been re-cut in an attempt to make them look like they were from the fifties. The clothing in the earlier scenes was a little bit better and closer to the true fifties flavor. The use of props was done well. The actors used actual props for the most part, there was very little miming of actions.
This play was a musical with elements of comedy. The comedy was mostly verbal with subtle inflections of tone. There were a few physical comedic elements mostly used by the characters of Eugene Florczyk and Cha-Cha DiGregorio, who did an excellent job making the audience laugh. The character of Jan played by Michelle Bain combined a few elements of physical with verbal comedy. Betty Rizzo, played by Judy Shealy was amazingly funny with her dry quips and very sarcastic delivery of Rizzo’s best lines. This play was structured episodically.
This play was very entertaining. There were a few elements of it that could be taken as social messages such as the drinking and rebelliousness that resulted in a pregnancy scare for one of the characters. The playwright and director seemed to work in beautiful harmony for this production. You could see that there was a lot of effort put into the acting and the direction. The letter from the artistic director that was printed in the front of the program gave a small amount of background. For someone who was not familiar with the work it would have helped them to perhaps understand a little bit more of the motivation behind the play.
There were several stand out performers in this play and also a few disappointments. Hands down Judy Shealy’s portrayal of Betty Rizzo was the show stealer. She gave the character real life. From the wisecracking to the sad and scared she made you care about what happened to her. Her performance of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was one of the standouts of the play. As I mentioned earlier the characters of Eugene and Cha-Cha played by Daniel King Jr. and Georgia Cook were wonderful. Both of these characters were very funny and entertaining. Jacob Cummings Teen Angel was excellent. The Teen Angel scene is one that I rank among my least favorites and it usually bores me, but I found myself loving this portrayal. Cummings sang excellently and lent a degree of humor to the role that was refreshing. Michelle Bain as Jan was another standout. She is a very good comic actress and her affected accent was very funny. I was not however thrilled with Heather Garlick or Joshua Cody Hunt who played the roles of Danny and Sandy. These are the two main characters and should carry the show. I found myself bored I am sad to say when they were on. Heathers performance as Sandy was wooden, one- dimensional and not at all believable. I found myself bored whenever she was on. Joshua Hunt as Danny was almost as bad although when he was interacting with the Burger Palace Boys he seemed to shine a little more.
The scenery was low budget and it was obvious. It did detract a little from the overall performance. It was almost as if a high school had thrown the production together at the last minute as far as the scenery is concerned. The lighting was acceptable, but the band was excellent. They and the actors worked together well and there seemed to be no missed cues and everything flowed seamlessly.
Overall, this was a very acceptable performance. The actors were as a whole very good, with the exceptions noted above. The band and actors worked flawlessly together and were very enjoyable. There was obviously a great deal of effort put into the choreography of the dance scene and it came off very well. It was a fun evening and certainly put a smile on my face. I came away nostalgic for a time I was not even alive to witness.
Name of production
Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Producing organization or theatre where you attended
Community Actors Studio Theatre
Date of performance
October 3, 2010
Style of performance (realistic, non-realistic,
Structure of the play (climactic, episodic, ritualistic,
Form of the play (tragedy, drama, comedy, etc.)
Stage space (proscenium, arena, etc.)
Acting styles (realistic, melodramatic, exaggerated,
Style of scenic designs (realistic, abstract, etc.)
Style of costume designs (fantasy, abstract, etc.)
Style of lighting designs (realistic, abstract, etc.)
Hayley Long, Lolly Payne, Sara Semmes
Pat Tiller, Chrissy Patterson, Cierra Parker, Tristan Waid, Janet Harbor, Tim Doyle, Alexandre de Lavalette
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