The Little Theater on the Square
My senior year in high school, there was a rumor going around that we would be doing Grease for the fall musical. That was great, until the music teacher said we weren't doing Grease, because Grease is to risqué, and we'd have to edit out too much. (ed. note, 21 years after the fact I talk to the teacher who was the drama coach, and learn that it was a matter of money, not propriety -- Grease was just too expensive) So instead, we did Anything Goes, and still ended up editing half of it out. And if that wasn't bad enough, I don't think anyone really enjoyed themselves, and I thought it was a lousy note to end my meager acting career on. The final insult was going to Mac Arthur high school with Nancy Smith the next year and watching them do the musical we weren't allowed to (and only half as good as we could have done it to boot). So how well does the Little Theater do it?
When you get to the theater, the Vince Fountaine character is sitting in his DJ booth spinning the tunes before the show goes on. The guy playing Vince is doing a much better job than he did playing a Von Trapp, so that was a good sign. Then the play starts with the Principal and the 2 non-cool parts (Eugene, and Patty Simcox) come out to do the Welcome Back to Rydell High bit. The first thing Sharon and I notice is that Patty's cheerleading outfit is a little short, especially for 1959. Otherwise the effervescent Patty and the terminally dull Eugene read off the announcements, all to the catcalls of the T-Birds, and the Pink Ladies. The principal calls them up to the stage, and they all sing the school song (while Kenickie and Rizzo make out and grope each other). We see the pink ladies meet Sandy (a scrawny, limp noodle type) and the T-birds meet up with Zucco (who reminds me of Robin Williams in the film Jack). They all sing Summer Lovin' and Rizzo and the pink ladies discover Sandy's prince charming is Danny Zucco. Sandy discovers Danny isn't always a prince. Still, it's only high school machismo, and he finds time to try to be human. He even joins the track team to impress her. But, every time the guys are around, he turns jerk again (to make matters worse, they think he spent the summer with someone easy, not little miss Sandra Dee). Kenickie buys a clunker of a car that they turn into greased lightning (Gee, where have we seen those dance steps before). Sandy joins the cheerleaders, but doesn't do so hot. Kenickie and Rizzo fight, make up, fight, make up, fight etc. When the big dance comes up, Rizzo ends up going with Zucco, and Kenickie brings a blind date. Frenchy drops out of high school to go to beauty school, then drops out of beauty school to go to high school. Rizzo is pregnant, then not pregnant. Sandy turns into a bad girl, and they all live happily ever after.
So, what would this page be without the criticisms -- like the weak leads. Danny looked like the adult version of the kid who always got beat up in high school, and Sandy was just a stick (a point made abundantly clear when she wore the tight pants at the end and you could make out much of her skeletal system through the clothing). Kenickie and Rizzo had some marvelous chemistry going on (the actress playing Rizzo reminded me of a girl I used to go dancing with in college (hi Lenore, if you're reading this)), too bad they weren't the leads. The small size of the stage put a bit of a damper on the production as well -- everything took place in front of a wall about 15 feet behind the stage edge. Volume wasn't as bad of a problem this time -- the performers used wireless microphones when singing. This involved a bit of tricky choreography at times, and sometimes the performers held them too far away to be much use (that and there was a buzz in the pa system whenever the mics were on). Still, there was enough energy to lift the production beyond the slightly anemic Sound of Music we saw earlier, though not past last seasons Brigadoon.