A review by Patrick Shannon, III

Monday January 29, 07
by Patrick Shannon, III,

A review by Patrick Shannon, III

Grease, that homage to music and teenage angst of the 1950s was
recently produced at Rivertown Repertory Theater. Directed
somewhat flippantly by Gary Rucker, the show had its moments. At
least the wings were completely masked and we were able to
concentrate on the main action on stage. This show is usually
directed in a manner that explores the joy of its 1950s era,
causing one to leave the theater with a sense of fizz and sweet
nostalgia. This show failed in that regard. Although each
performer was very good, their talents and excellent singing
voices could not give this production a solid form of
contentment. It never jelled into a unified vision and was no
better than a very good high school production. However, the
lesser values of “a very good high school production” seemed more
than enough to please the full house of enthusiastic patrons in
the audience in spite of this critics disappointment.

What went wrong? In comparison to the usual high quality shows
given at Rivertown Rep, the tech aspects of this sloppy Grease
seemed very low budget and poorly conceived and executed. The
set was unimaginative and ugly, lighting cues were missed and the
lighting design was “toggle switch” in concept, to wit: switch
on for full stage, switch off for dark stage. Very primitive.
In some scenes two glaring blinding spot lights were aimed
directly into the eyes of the audience. Nothing is more
painfully amateurish. Most of the costumes were so ugly in
concept and craftsmanship that they were totally camp. Maybe
that was the concept: funny 50s high school gymnasium over the
top camp. That might have worked had the performances been
likewise but individually they were not. They were serious and
surprisingly good.

Although I’ve seen Michael Tramontin do much better, mostly in
“scare drag” roles, he pranced around the stage in sufficiently
“butch” fashion to make the role of Danny Zuko work. Karen Ann
Cox as his “innocent love interest” was charming and sang well as
Sandy Dumbrowski. That’s what was so strange about this
production, each singer/actor was nearly excellent, but the show
as a whole never got off the ground, so let’s just list the
performers with praise for each and every singing/dancing scene:
Angela Papale (Betty Rizzo), Frannie Rosenberg (Patty Simcox),
Danny Marin (Sonny LaTerri), Greg Dileo (Vince Fontaine/Teen
Angel), Harold Jenkins (Johnny Casino), T. Joe Seibert (Eugene
Florezyk), Kathy Riess (Miss Lynch), Katie DelGiorno (Frenchy),
Keith Claverie (Roger), Kristin Popich (Cha Cha DiGregorio),
Leslie Limberg (Jan), Lucas Harms (Kenickie), Megan Sauzer Harms
(Marty) and P. J. McKinnie (Doody).

Let us hope that these talented performers will be seen again in
a better production that spotlights their talents on a higher
level with more professional values than that of a “very good
high school show.” Their talent, fine singing voices and high
energy deserves more than a low budget, spiritless Grease.