“Grease” is one of those fun musicals that has touched almost everyone at some point in their lives – whether that be via the 1978 film, the 2016 television special, the multiple Broadway revivals or one of the hundreds of regional stage productions mounted each year.
Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire now brings its production of “Grease” to life with a talented troupe of young performers. Marriott’s production draws on the influences of both the original Broadway production and the 1978 film. The result is a winning evening of entertainment.
The story takes place in 1959 as the school year starts for the greasers who make up the T-Birds gang and their girls, the Pink Ladies. Danny Zuko, the leader of the T-Birds and the coolest guy on campus, spent the summer at the beach romancing a sweet girl named Sandy. When summer ended, the lovebirds thought they’d never see each other again. But because of a change in plans by Sandy’s father, the two end up together at Rydell High School.
Broadway’s Jimmy Nicholas plays Zuko and has all the talent and handsome looks needed to portray the teen heartthrob. Leryn Turlington co-stars as Sandy. Turlington is a cute-as-a-button petite ingenue with a big voice. Together, they create magic.
The supporting cast is equally magical. Kevin Corbett is effective as Danny’s lieutenant, Kenickie, and Jacquelyne Jones as Betty Rizzo is a sultry beauty with sharply arched eyebrows. Her rendition of the heartbreaking song “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” is one of the most powerful moments in the show.
Frenchy, who drops out of high school to attend beauty school only to flunk out in record time, is brilliantly played by Landree Fleming. Thanks to her incredible Lucille Ball-like expressions, it’s a joy every time Fleming is onstage.
Fellow Pink Ladies Marty and Jan are played by Michelle Lauto and Tiffany T. Taylor, respectively. Both are skilled performers and fun to watch.
Rounding out the T-Birds are Jack Cahill-Lemme as Sonny, Jake Elkins as Roger and Michael Kurowski as baby-faced Doody. They, too, are a hoot.
The ensemble also includes Kelly Anne Clark (Miss Lynch), Alaina Wis (Patty Simcox), Garrett Lutz (Eugene), Curt Bouril (Vince Fontaine), Billy Rude (Johnny Casino), Jessica Palkovic (Cha-Cha DiGregorio), Jonathan Butler-Duplessis (Teen Angel), Allison Sill, Kyra Sorce and Marco Tzunux (all three listed as "ensemble").
Marriott’s “Grease” hinges on high-octane singing and superior comedic timing. From start to finish, the production is one laugh after another thanks to the direction of Scott Weinstein. Add that to the fancy choreography by William Carlos Angulo and top-notch music direction by Ryan T. Nelson, and “Grease” guarantees a good time.
As has become customary for many theaters, the Marriott production of “Grease” substitutes some of the songs from the movie for certain ones from the Broadway libretto. “Hopelessly Devoted to You” takes the place of “It’s Raining on Prom Night” and “You’re the One that I Want” replaces “All Choked Up.” Although the movie songs are lively and recognizable, the original Broadway songs have their own magic that is somewhat missed by their exclusion.
Costumes by Amanda Vander Byl perfectly fit the era and complement each performer’s character. Set design by Jeffrey D. Kmiec adds subtle dimension to the overall production.
The cast of Marriott’s “Grease” clearly is having a great time onstage and graciously invites the audience in on the fun.
"Grease" runs at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays,
8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays.
Ticket prices range from $50 to $60, excluding tax and handling fees. Student, senior and military discounts are available. There are a limited number of dinner-theater packages for Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
• Rikki Lee Travolta has headlined and directed theatrical productions around the country. He also is the founder of It’s Showtime Theatre of Huntley and continues to serve on the advisory committee. He most recently starred in the feature film “The Lurker” opposite Scout Taylor-Compton.