Friday, April 19, 2013

Maggi's Grease Review

Riverside Theatre's production of Grease, directed by Bruce Lumpkin, is a delightfully campy romp through the 50's, filled with references that bring back fond memories for the largely senior audience. Founded over 30 years ago, with a recent $20 million renovation, the beautiful theater has one of the largest subscribing audiences in Florida. The lobby is filled with photos of its biggest benefactors and the program has an impressive seven page list of supporters.

This is no high school production. The cast is made up of seasoned professionals who work together as a well oiled unit. Their comic timing and enunciation is precise and the audience responded with enthusiastic laughter at the appropriate times. The characterizations are broadly drawn, almost in satire, as are the songs and musical numbers. While some songs are added from the movie (i.e. "Hopelessly Devoted") the stage production is more explicit in its adult themes.

As Danny and Sandy, Matthew Ragas and Laura Giknis have strong voices. Laura, as Sandy, was dressed and made up as such a little girl it made me wonder why Danny would be drawn to her. Kate Fahrner is impressive as Rizzo, effectively displaying a combination of outward toughness and inner vulnerability, especially in her heartfelt "There are Worse Things I Could Do".
Interestingly, Kate was "Ellen" in Walnut Street's "Miss Saigon" last season, opposite Eric's Chris. This production will move to Walnut Street in Philly in May.

Eric told me he is flying under the radar in this show, doing two cameo roles that are different enough from each other that the audience may not realize he is the same person. He doesn't appear onstage until the beginning of the second act, but his booming and snappy radio announcer voice can be heard a number of times throughout the first, coming through the transister radio. His unique voice is instantly recognizable and made me chuckle in delight. His character of Vince Fontaine is loosely based on a young Dick Clark and Eric certainly looks the part, in a well fitted trim suit, narrow tie and slick hair. He wasted no opportunity to come on to every female, young or old, including head mistress, Miss Lynch, delightfully played by Mary Martello. This was an entirely new side of Eric I have not seen before. A while ago I remember asking him if he could play "slimy" and he replied "I don't know". Well apparently he can. I'm convinced there is nothing he can't do.

When we see Eric again in "Beauty School Dropout" he is dressed in a blinding white suit with white tie and his pompadour is reminiscent of Frankie Avalon in the movie. He is breathtakingly good looking. A real teen idol. The song really showcases Eric's vocal abilities and the audience sits up and takes notice. It's evident he is having a blast with it, milking it for all it's worth, in keeping with the rest of the show. He takes his time building up the song, dazzling us with a gradual slide up to the final note, eliciting the loudest applause of the night.

I will see the show again on Saturday and may post again afterwards. The Vero Beach run is through May 4th. Tickets are still available at

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