Reviewed by Hen Zannini
The Smithfield High School Music Department’s current musical is “Grease.”
“Grease” opened off-Broadway in 1972 and moved to Broadway to run for another eight years. In 1978 it was made into a movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John and grossed nearly $400 million.
Aiden Travers opens the play singing “Grease,” the well know song from the movie, sung by Frankie Valli. Aiden’s energy and contagious smile sets the pace for what’s in store! We are welcomed to Rydell High School’s class of 1959 high school reunion and are greeted by the entire Company performing the “Alma Mata Parody.”
This musical is beautifully directed by Katherine Young, assisted by Cynthia Fontaine-Powers, Production Assistant, and Chloe Olean, Stage Manager. Katherine fully utilizes the stage and theatre to maximum potential. Her high-energy blocking of over fifty cast members is professional and highly entertaining. Band Director Kelly Chartier conducts the seven-piece student orchestra as they play the nearly two-hour score to perfection. It’s hard to believe the orchestra is comprised of high school students; their talent is top notch.
Kudos to the Set Design team–Patricia Bubis, Megan Anderson, Paul and Maria Duhamel, and Luana Towne-Stearns. Everything from the school exterior, lockers, bedroom, and malt shop complete with jukebox, to the “hunk of junk,” also known as “Greased Lightning,” were perfect and easily transported you to 1959. The transformation of the car is unbelievable. I’ve seen “Grease” close to a dozen times (and performed in it, as well!), and this is one of the best vehicles I’ve ever seen!
The hard work of choreographers Bethany Pierpaoli, Kerissa Roderick, Justina Mabray, and Carissa Charbonneau is evident and delightful to watch throughout the entire performance. The larger group numbers are so much fun—I didn’t want them to end! The costumes were true to the fifties, colorful, and beautifully made. To see them all together at one time in the ensemble numbers was like watching fireworks, only on the ground!
Bad boy Danny Zuko is well played by Alec Devine. He has lots of comic moments and lines, including his appearance in a “track suit” and being stranded at the drive-in. “No one walks out of the drive-in!” His delivery is spot on. He displays his voice and dancing in “Summer Nights,” “You’re the One That I Want,” and “Hand Jive.” Alec—I mean Danny—is every girl’s dreamboat!
Juliana Rivelli is good girl Sandy Dumbrowski. Good, that is, until she turns “bad” in Act 2. It’s a change that you have to see to believe! Juliana’s character runs the gamut of emotions, and you feel every one of them through her superb acting, be it happiness, anger, sadness, or frustration. Her beautiful voice simply soars in the poignant “Hopelessly Devoted,” which showcases her wide range and which left me with a lump in my throat. She also does a great job in her duets, “Summer Nights,” and “You’re the One That I Want.” Juliana totally captures the sweet essence of Sandy.
The Pink Ladies are a hoot, each with a distinctive personality. They wear the prettiest and pinkest Pink Lady jackets I’ve ever seen. Where can I get one?! Hope Sousa plays Pink Lady Betty Rizzo. Betty is hard hearted, but her true colors come through in her show-stopping solo, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” All I can say is “WOW.” I had tears in my eyes. This number won her thunderous applause. She also sings the comical, “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” which generates lots of well deserved laughter. Hope’s acting is excellent; you feel what she feels.
Sexy Pink Lady Marty is convincingly played by Nina Votolato. Her marvelous voice is heard in “Freddy My Love.” Jessica Lawton is Jan, whose primary focus is food! Jessica sings the hysterical “Mooning” with her boyfriend Roger, who is played by Michael Iannuccillo. They elicit lots of laughs and are just the most adorable couple! Frenchy is played by Emma McKay and is hilarious in this role. Poor Frenchy drops out of school to attend beauty school, only to flunk out. You truly feel for her. She is serenaded by Teen Angel, Benjamin Duhamel, in “Beauty School Dropout.” His falsetto is very much appreciated by the audience! Hailey Beaulieu plays Patty Simcox to the bubbly and bouncy hilt! She is a ball of energy with fabulous acting chops.
Bryce Moroni is suave and swaggering as Rizzo’s boyfriend Kenickie. He is awesome in his solo, “Greased Lightning,” where he sings and dances with the boys in one of my favorite numbers. How can you not love watching twelve guys in black leather jackets making love to their car?! Sonny Latierri is played by David O’Brien. Devin may be small in stature, but he is huge in character! He is fantastic playing the cad who is always in trouble. Andrey Kryschnuk, Doody, nails his naïve and nervous character. I found myself just wanting to hug him. I loved his guitar playing in “Those Magic Changes.”
“Born to Hand Jive” had me wanting to jump out of my seat and dance with the cast! Additional excellent musical numbers include “Shakin’ at the High School Hop,” It’s Raining on Prom Night” (beautiful harmony), and the energetic closing, “We Go Together.”
Rounding out this marvelous and talented high school cast are Renee Roy (Miss Lynch), Austin Sanderson (Eugene), Jonathan Twining (Vince Fontaine), Michael Russell (Johnny Casino), Adeline Schwartz (Cha-Cha DiGregorio), and Mary Edsall (Burger Palace Waitress), as well as the Cheerleaders, Angel Choir, and Ensemble. An additional shout-out to the Stage Crew and Sound and Lights Crew.
Don’t miss this lively and highly entertaining musical! There are just two performances remaining. I promise you will not be disappointed!
Saturday, March 11 @ 7 pm and Sunday, March 12 at 2 pm
Smithfield High School
90 Pleasant View Avenue