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January 10, 2011 Comments (1) Views: 1220 #Theater and Stage, Arts & Entertainment, Reviews, Stage

Review: Grease at the Paramount had a low wattage star.

Eddie Mekka's star power fails to ignite The Paramount's "Grease".

“Grease” is definitely not the word. The Paramount’s current production of Grease is something less than stellar. Despite a plethora of nostalgia, this particular rendition did not manage to capture the magic of the movie or original Broadway productions. The attempts to modernize fell flat and in the insertion of “adult dialogue” seemed forced and borderline inappropriate. While this was not a bad production, it certainly did not meet any expectations.

First of all, the top billed actor (and only name on the marquee) in this production was Eddie Mekka, who was on Laverne & Shirley or something. Frankly, I didn’t care, especially since he was playing the role of Vince Fontaine/Teen Angel, both menial roles at best. It was obvious that Mekka has a list of demands to appear in this production. Why else would he receive top billing and be allowed to perform a humorless stand-up act prior to the show? It was weird. It would be like doing a stage version of Buffy and giving Emma Caulfield (who played Anya) top billing. It simply did not make sense and felt forced, especially since Mekka is WAY past his prime.

As for the actual production, the musical numbers were the most enjoyable part of the show.  Both “Grease Lightning” and “You’re The One That I Want” were the only show stoppers in the entire production. Coincidentally, these were the only numbers that actually contained choreography beyond a basic level. In general, the danced choreography was extremely weak and basic, which was extremely disappointing for a production of this level. Frankly, I expected impressive dance numbers instead of high school level choreography.  When a simple fan kick is the most difficult bit of choreography included, you know you are in for some boring dance numbers.

However, the musical numbers were much more enjoyable than the lengthy periods of dialogue in the production. I’m not quite sure what wasn’t working, but many of the actor’s spoken interactions felt forced and unrealistic.  Yes, this is a Broadway level musical, where chewing the scenery is expected. That said, the actors should still be able to portray their characters with a bit of believability. In this production, Sandy came across as a stuck-up bitch, Danny as a push over and most everyone else as perverts.

Also, for some reason, someone thought it was a good idea to insert adult dialogue into an otherwise fairly PG production.  I heard “bitch”, “bastard”, “shit” and “gangbang” used all at least once.  Also, several references to sex and the decision to have Rizzo and Kenickie literally HUMP on stage during one of the musical numbers pushed the production into HBO territory. At one point, as Rizzo finishes singling “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee”, Sandy calls her a bitch and TACKLES her on stage. All I could think was, “since when did Grease become Jersey Shore?” Grease is a production that does not need to be modernized and whoever decided that it does should be fired. Most of the audience seemed to react negatively to these changes.

On a positive note, Lauren Elaine Taylor’s portrayal of Rizzo was practically flawless and a complete joy to watch. Taylor seemed to be a walking embodiment of Stockard Channing’s Rizzo. Every joke, gesture and line was believable. Also, Taylor was the only cast member to deliver a solo wherein she actually hit all of the high notes. Seriously, none of the other actors could hit the high notes in their solo. Again, this was jarring for a production of this supposed caliber.

Overall, Grease had a few breakout performances and a few great numbers, but much of the singing, dancing and dialogue fell flat. Instead of spending their budget on Mekka and the thousands of Christmas lights they had on stage, it would have been a smarter investment to hire a better choreographer, vocal coach and script editor. More than anything else, I certainly hope that no one else feels a need to “modernize” any other classics.

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One Response to Review: Grease at the Paramount had a low wattage star.

  1. MK says:

    Saw this in Portland almost 2 years ago with Taylor Hicks
    (american idol) as Teen angel and afterward Hicks did a 30 min concert and I felt like it was a total reality show and was never like the movie. The movie at least had a story. This was the worst touring show I had every seen.