When Grease was first performed in New York City back in 1972, it received mixed notices. "Mildly amusing" was about the highest praise it earned. But it was a hit with Baby Boomers who grew up in the 1950s, and the show's Doo-Wop score kept audiences coming back until 1980.
It's 3,388 performances set a Broadway record that stood until A Chorus Line broke it in 1983. It's a show that still has some entertainment appeal — as evidenced by Jersey Productions' current staging in Covington — but "mildly amusing" pretty well sums it up.
Set at Rydell High School amidst the teenage angst of the bad girls and their greaser boyfriends, Grease doesn't have much of a story: Sandy Dumbrowski (Lauren Sprague) is the new girl as school starts; she's had an innocent fling over the summer with Danny Zuko (Cameron Hansel), who turns out to be a "hood" at Rydell. She's a bit too prim and proper for the Rydell "Pink Ladies," especially tough-talking ringleader Rizzo (Denise Devlin). Eventually Sandy is convinced to loosen up and get sexy.
This lame story that makes light of teen sex and drinking isn't helped by the script's two-dimensional roles. Director Larry Smiglewski puts his actors through the motions without asking them to think much about the characters, who never evolve beyond caricatures.
Devlin, a recent NKU grad, gives Rizzo some texture ("There Are Worse Things I Could Do"), but Sprague, a solid performer from CCM's musical theater program, never finds a meaningful reason for Sandy's "conversion." Hansel, a Wright State student, vacillates between being a bad boy and a silly wuss as Danny. That being said, everyone sings Grease's amusing musical numbers with energy, and Liz Vosmeier's choreography keeps things hopping onstage. (Unfortunately, Smiglewski hasn't done much to sustain momentum with clunky, overlong scene changes.)
Grease is the third of Jersey's three summer productions, which will be back at The Carnegie in December with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The group keeps finding solid college-level performers for the summer, but each production has lacked a spark to make it truly satisfying. Grade: C
GREASE, presented by Jersey Productions at The Carnegie, continues through Sunday.