Monday, August 15, 2016

reviews - GREASE - Valley Youth Theatre

Spencer Claus and Liz Grannis
Photo by Brian Cahill
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through August 28th.

"...Purists should be happy (that) Valley Youth Theatre, never one to shy away from a challenge, returns the show to its roots. There remains a small amount of tweaking in the lyrics and the crassness of the dialog... – particularly a genuine feel for the fifties – this is as close to the original production as you will most likely see....The overall plot was always thin, but the show’s themes of growing up, loyalty, friendship, teenage pregnancy, underage drinking and adolescents trying to fit in are all there. ...Director Bobb Cooper has made a smart move... By casting adults in adult roles, all teenage performers become suddenly age-appropriate...With the professional approach Bobb demands and often gets from his youthful cast, there’s a feel of unexpected authenticity to the entire production. These really are kids doing and saying what kids do and say as they face the pains of getting older while clinging to school yard habits....a fine, high-energy ensemble, well cast and all bringing a distinct individual quality to their colorful, high-school characters... As Danny, Spencer Claus may act tough in front of the guys, but that vulnerable youngster within is always evident, plus those character conflicts are far more effective when performed by a talented sixteen year-old...Liz Grannis’ Sandy...may initially appear as innocent as Sandre Dee, but when pushed the character is not above lashing out, making her later transition to a biker’s fantasy leather-clad babe less a writer’s contrivance to wrap things up and something that Sandy might actually do...A weakness of the musical is that all conflicts built in the previous two hours resolve themselves in seconds with all loose ends wrapping up in a few, short sentences. Before you can blink, the cast are already taking their bows. ...But what’s important is not the shortcomings of the original book but what VYT has achieved with this production. ...By ignoring trends, updates and going all the way back for its future run, VYT’s Grease is a nostalgic musical trip well worth taking. " -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"Grease is a musical that's been a constant in high schools and regional theatres since it debuted in Chicago in 1971, hit it big on Broadway in the mid-1970s, and was turned into a glittery Hollywood musical in 1978. ...While the story may be a little slight, Valley Youth Theatre's production is a joyous experience with an extremely talented cast of teens and fun-filled direction, choreography and creative elements. Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey's plot follows a group of high school kids in 1959 at Rydell High School who are typical ordinary teenagers looking for love, fast cars and fun times. The main story centers on the "square," though sweet, outsider Sandy, who realizes on her first day in her new school that her summer boyfriend Danny Zuko happens to also attend Rydell. Danny tries to act cool around Sandy, since he's somewhat exaggerated the physical nature of his relationship with her to his friends, which only confuses and hurts Sandy. The show follows their attempt to get back together....While the topics the show tackles are done in a serious way, there are a few plot holes as well as some of the musical numbers aren't on par with the more well-known ones. It's easy to see why those songs were cut or replaced for the film version. Director Bobb Cooper has found an impressive group of kids to bring these lovable characters to life. ...Sure these kids can all sing and dance very well but the fact that they also deliver believable characters is a testament to Cooper's strong directing abilities. As Danny and Sandy, Spencer Claus and Liz Grannis have plenty of chemistry. They elicit a large amount of charisma and spunk that make the audience root for them to be together.... Their warm, rich singing voices and impressive dance moves also add to their well-rounded and charming portrayals. The rest of the highly enthusiastic cast includes Carly Makani Copp and Spencer Coben as tough talking Betty Rizzo and the gritty, yet charming, car loving Kenickie. ... VYT has wisely cast grown-ups in the three adult roles in the show. Lane Northcutt brings the right amount of enthusiasm and a dollop of sliminess as radio disc jockey Vince Fontaine while Virginia Olivieri is appropriately stern as Miss Lynch....Cory McCloskey has the right sarcastic edge as the Teen Angel and delivers a crowd pleasing, and very funny, "Beauty School Drop Out." Technical aspects are impressive with stellar musical direction from Mark Fearey...Full of energy and a sentimental sensibility that both mocks and celebrates the 50s, Grease has been successful due to the quirky identifiable characters and the many memorable musical numbers. The shortcomings of the script may be beyond VYT's control but what isn't is smart casting, direction, choreography and exceptional creative aspects. VYT delivers on all of those aspects and that's why the end result is an exceedingly entertaining good time."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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