FTS Review: Grease

Let me start by saying the following: there are a handful of musicals that I really do like.  The rest don’t interest me all that much.  ‘Grease’ generally falls into that latter category – I’ve never seen the John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John flick…never seen it done on stage.  Shameful for a former student of stagecraft? Probably.  But I have no regrets.

It allowed for a pretty clean slate, going into UMaine’s performance on Saturday night.  In the context of Director Sandra Hardy’s commentary on the show as an exploration of the pain, awkwardness, and humor of adolescence, many in the cast did an admirable job.

I won’t get into the storyline, since most of America knows the tale of Danny and Sandy going from summer romance to “it’s complicated” (for the Facebook crowd). The music is among Broadway’s most famous – ‘Greased Lighning,’ ‘Beauty School Dropout,’ and ‘You’re the One That I Want,’ among many others.  So, what do I have to say?

There were many solid (or better) performances.  Ira Kramer had a tremendous presence as Danny – it was hard to not look his way during any scene he was in, particularly as he capably interpreted choreographer Jasmine Ireland’s routines.  Sandy’s emotional adolescent ups and (many) downs were portrayed nicely by Hope Milne, who has a set of pipes that you could hear from the Alfond.  And the rest of the cast was not to be crowded out by the leading duo – especially Nellie Kelly (also one of my faves from Metamorphoses) as Jan, whose small frame belies her ability to pack away the calories. Andrew Silver as Doody, Jessica Rogers as Frenchy, and Brandon Clark as Sonny (not to mention Doody and Sonny’s “full moons”) all took turns nicely taking the story through its emotional patches and comedic relief.  And during ‘Greased Lightning,’ I truly loved Silver staying very much in the moment as he kicked the car’s bumper back into place after what I perceived as a set-piece-mishap.

Friend of Fill The Steins, Danny Williams, led a talented orchestra in jamming out the popular tunes – and I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out the sax players especially: Adam T. Smith and Ben McNaboe caught my attention more than once.

Were I to focus on the distractions in the show, it would be the sound.  Pretty tough.  It’s no fault of anyone in the show, but Hauck Auditorium is a rough, cavernous place – sounds get lost in the deep stage and odd angles, and so – especially in some of the transitions between mic’d and non-mic’d scenes – I did lose some significant chunks of dialogue, even four rows from the stage. A recent grant was made to the School of Performing Arts for some enhancements in this area, but it still proved tough, at times.

In the end, Dr. Sandra Hardy (who I’m awfully proud to still call a friend after so many years, in the interest of disclosure…) provided the direction that really fleshed out these characters – characters that, left to a lesser director, could come off as stereotypical or paper-thin. She has an ability to draw out a nuanced performance from her cast, and I think she’s done just that once again.  Not that I’m surprised.

A true regret is that, since snow postponed last week’s Fill The Steins attendance, the show’s run is now over, and I can’t urge FTS Nation to get tickets.  (Not that you’d have much luck – sellouts were the theme of the run, from what I’m hearing…) Too bad – it was a good one; I hope you’ll keep an eye in the School of Performing Arts Spring Calendar and head over to check out the great local talent UMaine has to offer!



Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

About "Fill The Steins": A multimedia platform devoted to providing an informative, entertaining forum that celebrates "the college of our hearts always" and its graduates' contributions to academics, athletics, and popular culture, as created by alumni and students, for alumni and students. FTS is not affiliated with the University of Maine or UMaine System and does not represent the views or opinions of the university in any way, shape, or form.
Copyright © Fill The Steins

This blog has been archived

This blog has been archived and is no longer being updated.