Grease Is the Word at Gateway Playhouse

Summer is finally here, and the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport kicks off its 2013 season with a revival of Grease. The characters you love from the 1978 hit movie starring John Travolta and Oliva Newton John come to life in spectacle of song and dance, as we are transported back to 1959 at Rydell High, where smoking was cool and rock and roll was life.

The stage version of Grease differs from the movie in many ways. The characters on stage become more dynamic than expected, as we get to see deeper into their lives and the struggles they face as lower-class kids. The production is directed by Grease Broadway alum Ray DeMattis, who famously played Roger the Mooning King (yes, that kind of MOONing), alongside John Travolta on Broadway in the original stage production. With a credit like that backing the show, it’s no surprise Gateway has produced another hit.

All of your favorite songs from the movie are brought to life, including some that get larger on the stage like “Those Magic Changes,” sung spectacularly by Doody, played by Shawn Platzker, and “Freddy My Love,” which happens to be one of my all-time favorites. Jessica Norland is perfect as Marty, and her rendition of the love song to her boyfriend Freddy is so much fun! I was snapping my fingers and bopping my head along with her and the rest of the Pink Ladies.

When the Greasers and the Pink Ladies catch wind of the summer romance between Danny Zuko, played by Sean Gorski, and Sandy Dumbrowski, played by Nikki Bohne, the ugly politics of high school begin to unfold. Holly Ann Butler, who played Rizzo in Grease on Broadway, plays the character of Betty Rizzo to haughty perfection. She’s one bad-ass chick who takes no crap from anyone, including her Greaser boyfriend Kenickie. She has no tolerance for goody-goody Sandy, and her rendition of “Look at me I’m Sandra Dee” is hilarious.

The love story between Danny and Sandy is stronger in the movie, but we see glimpses of the romance during “Summer Nights,” and we are blasted with the power of the voices from our leading actors. Gorski puts a goofy spin on the character of Danny Zuko, making him more endearing and amusing. As the lovely Sandra Dee, Bohne displays vocals so beautiful and clear she gave me goosebumps throughout the night.

The awesome musical numbers of the show include: “Born to Hand Jive,” as we get a glimpse into what a high school dance would have been like in the late 1950s (it was hard not to hand jive right along with them!), the hysterical “Beauty School Dropout” featuring Frenchy, who we know has now dropped out of high school and flunked beauty school and Roger the “Mooning King of Rydell” and Jan’s riotously amusing version of “Mooning.”

Rizzo and Sandy have a moment when Rizzo sings “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” her response to Sandy’s sympathy towards her rumored pregnancy. Sandy realizes there’s more to life than being prim and proper, and her plan to wow Danny takes root.

In the finale, “You’re the One That I Want,” Sandy reveals her new “bad-ass” look to Danny and they proclaim their love for one another with all of their friends looking on. The show ends with the same high-energy it began with, and the small but very talented cast had the audience singing and clapping along at the end with “We Go Together.”

You can catch Grease at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport now through June 8 by visiting pacsc.org. The season continues with “Young Frankenstein,” “Legends in Concert,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Buddy Holly Story” and “Ballroom With A Twist.”

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