Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski fall in summer love all over again—with the movie’s Doody and Putzie in charge of the whole nostalgic shebang—as Cabrillo Music Theatre revives the 3,388-performance Broadway megahit Grease to the delight of teen and adult audiences alike.

WE GO TOGETHER Barry Pearl (Doody to John Travolta’s Danny and Olivia Newton-John’s Sandy) directs for Cabrillo as only a Grease vet could, with choreographer Kelly Ward (Roger in the 1978 movie smash) insuring that cast members not yet born when Grease went from stage to screen have their “Hand-Jive” and other 1950s dance moves down pat.

Here’s a quick refresher course on Grease’s now iconic cast of characters as created by book, music, and lyric writers Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey:

Sandy and Danny I

• Danny (Michael Cusimano), undisputed leader of the Burger Palace Boys and the coolest, hottest hotshot at Rydell High.

• Sandy (Natalie MacDonald), wholesome girl-next-door transfer student, whose first on-campus encounter with Danny leads her to believe that that their recent romance may have been a case of “summer loving” and nothing more.

• Kenicke (Harley Jay), Danny’s smart-alecky sidekick; Doody (Nick Tubbs), the hero-worshiping youngest of the Burger Boys; Sonny (Nick Bernardi), the gang’s resident Italian Wise Guy and self-described lady killer; and Roger (Ryan Quick), roly-poly class clown nicknamed “Rump” for his habit of “Mooning” on a Saturday night.

Jan, Marty, Frenchy and Rizzo

• Betty Rizzo, aka Rizzo (Katherine Malak), Rydell’s baddest bad girl, Kenicke’s steady, and the Pink Ladys’ undisputed leader; Frenchy (Tessa Grady), Rydell High and Beauty School dropout, who naively assumes she got her nickname by “French inhaling” cigarette smoke; Marty (Claire Bermingham), the Pink Ladies’ resident glamour girl with a thing for older men like sleazy radio DJ Vince Fontaine (Travis Dixon); and Jan (Kimmy Zolozabal), the cutest, cuddliest, and most easily excitable Pink Lady at Rydell High.

Completing the Rydell student body are easily hoodwinked nerd Eugene Florczyk (Adam von Almen) and overachieving cheerleader Patty Simcox (Veronica Dunne), with English teacher Miss Lynch (Michele Selin) representing the Rydell High adults. And not to be forgotten are Johnny Casino (Jon Robert Hall), Rydell High’s resident Link Larkin; Cha-Cha Gregorio (Francesca Barletta), loud-mouthed dance champ at rival Catholic high school St. Bernadette’s; and Teen Angel (Adrian Zmed), who pops into Frenchy’s dreams to serenade her with “Beauty School Dropout.”

Sandy and Danny II Under Pearl’s expert direction, Cabrillo’s cast of young and young-at-heart triple-threats do bang-up work, beginning with its newcomer pair of stars, handsome heartthrob Cusimano and girl-next-door beauty MacDonald. StageSceneLA faves Barletta, Bernardi, Dixon, Dunne, Grady, Tubbs, and Zolozabal reveal new sides to their talents, while Hall, Quick, Selin, and von Almen prove multi-faceted discoveries. Especially impressive is Bermingham’s tall, leggy Marty (with so spot-on an American accent you’d never guess she’s an Irish lass). Zmed’s brief cameo appearance is sure to resonate with fans of Grease 2 fans. And saving best for last, Rydell’s most gossiped-about duo are brought to vibrant life by the always phenomenal Jay and Malak, the latter of whom makes “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” the evening’s hands-down showstopper.

Grease movie fans are cautioned not to expect to hear “Grease,” “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” and “You’re The One That I Want,” added to the 2007 Broadway revival but not part of the licensed 1972 version, an absence one wishes Samuel French Inc. would remedy. Also, parents with young children are advised that Grease contains a PG-13 mix of sexual content, teen smoking and drinking, language, and more than a few instances of the “one-finger salute.”

Still, it’s all in good fun, with musical director David O and his upstairs band (Steve Bethers, Matt Germaine, Shane Harry, Brian LaFontaine, Dave Lotfi, and Gary Rautenberg) getting the joint rocking to Grease classics “Summer Nights,” “Those Magic Changes,” “Freddy, My Love,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “Mooning,” “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” “We Go Togther,” “It’s Raining On Prom Night,” “Born To Hand Jive,” “Beauty School Dropout,” “Alone At A Drive-In Movie,” “Rock n’ Roll Party Queen,” “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” and “All Choked Up.” (Is there any Grease song that hasn’t become a standard?)

And speaking of songs, in an inspired bit of genius, wired hand mikes appear suddenly out of nowhere whenever anyone bursts into song, a a “high concept” from the original production that predates Spring Awakening by thirty-five years.

Though I’ve never been a fan of Grease’s traditional (and rather dull) scenic design (provided here by Valley Youth Theatre, Phoenix, AZ) and would love to see what the show would look like with a whole new concept, costumes (provided by FCLO Music Theatre) are each and every one a colorful 1950s winner, with Cassie Russek’s hair and makeup design completing the spot-on ‘50s look. Design Partners, Inc.’s lighting design is appropriately flashy, while Jonathan Burke provides his accustomed expert sound design. And just wait till you see this Grease’s mini-Greased Lightning.

Kenickie and the Burger Palace Boys Program credits go also to Hana Kim (additional scenic design), Christine Gibson (wardrobe supervisor), Char Brister (crew captain), Gary Wissman (technical director), and Darryl Tanikawa (orchestra contractor). Allie Roy is production stage manager and Morgan Zupanski assistant stage manager.

It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a major locally-produced Grease revival (FCLO’s in 2006 would seem to be the most recent) making this brief two-weekend Cabrillo Music Theatre revival manna from 1950s heaven. With Barry Pearl in the driver’s seat, this all-around terrific Grease is indeed “the word.”

Cabrillo Music Theatre, Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 Thousand Oaks Boulevard, Thousand Oaks.

–Steven Stanley
April 12, 2013
Photos: Ed Krieger

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