I recently attended the preview of “Grease” performed by the Sherman Community Players. The popular musical is directed by Anthony Nelson, and it delivers solid entertainment with riveting song and dance, heart throbbing romance and plenty of laughs.
Energized with its rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack, the musical is set in 1959 at Rydell High School and various, related working class locations. The romantic comedy examines teen dating and romance along with other issues of adolescence, including fitting in, school culture and the music that seems to connect those elements and make life manageable for teens.
In keeping with the notion that opposites sometimes attract, the leading high school boy, Danny, played by Matt Maxwell, and the leading high school girl, Sandy, played by Hannah Posner, brought vastly different life experiences to a summer romance that is carried forward to their senior year at Rydell High.
Maxwell, in the role of Danny, a firmly fixed member of the high school gang the T-Birds, does an outstanding job of portraying the typically tough, non-conforming aspects of being a “greaser” in high school. In a production that is heavy on high energy choreography, Maxwell delivers in grand fashion. Also, vocally solid in both song and dialogue, he performs extremely well in the remaining element that is essential for the role — attitude.
Even so, Maxwell still exhibits enough moments of vulnerability to keep Danny from coming across as being truly dangerous or vulgar. Instead, he is a high school kid who is most comfortable in the gang culture, with its black motorcycle jackets and the sense of belonging it affords “greasers,” who — like most everyone else — want to fit in somewhere.
Hannah Posner’s portrayal of Sandy is the ideal contrast to Maxwell’s Danny. Initially, Sandy brings the seemingly squeaky clean values and reserve of a pretty girl transferring to a new high school as her senior year begins. She is quickly adopted by the female clique, the Pink Ladies, and as a result becomes immersed in its somewhat courser culture, which includes experimentation with smoking and drinking, and of course, almost constant talk of boys. In addition to her views that differ markedly from her new friends, Sandy also has romantic feelings for Danny, a student at her new school, carried over from their summer romance.
Posner does an outstanding job of fusing all of those issues, and the challenges they present, into the character of Sandy. To do so, she demonstrates splendid talent in the demanding choreography, songs and dialogue that the role calls for. While most of the characters remain relatively unchanged from beginning to end, the role of Sandy changes significantly, which Posner manages very nicely.
The members of the T-Birds are played extremely well by Brandon Wood, Dylan Horton, Eric Vest and Connor Horsley. Equally well portrayed are the Pink Ladies, played by Amber Harrington, Lily Boessen, Caera Flood, Caroline Kellam and Reagan Martin. In various combinations, these performers deliver several of the show’s outstanding musical numbers, plenty of laughs and some tender moments as well.
Even though members of cliques are oftentimes known for their homogeneity, one sees clear individuality in each of the T-Birds and Pink Ladies, driven by the obvious talent of the actors performing the rolls. In doing so, the players added considerable breadth to the production, ensuring its focus on more than just “boy meets girl,” but additionally on life itself, and the friends that help navigate its tricky turns.
Lisa Hebert, Marissa Brown, Jaden Petty, Jaden Petty, Joseph Casper and Rudy Reynoso, with his landmark voice as Vince Fointaine and Teen Angel, round out the cast with solid performances. And the ensemble of Jessica Mullens, Harley May Stanley and Jade Cox add very nicely as well.
As musical director, Fred Freeman has assembled a talented orchestra that stirs the audience with upbeat music that underscores the entire production. With its signature music of early rock ‘n’ roll, and its uniquely American ethos, “Grease” transports audiences to the heady and raucous days that gave rise to that still beloved sound. Some might say it is the DNA of the show, and the talented musicians in the SCP orchestra play it to perfection under Freeman’s baton.
The choreography under the direction of Katreeva Phillips is masterful. The dancing, which is such a rousing and delightful aspect of “Grease,” is performed with skill, energy and wonderful cohesion. Her players literally leap from the stage as they utilize all aspects of the space.
Webster Crocker’s set design is brilliant as he has provided room for plenty of movement at stage level, complimented with a revolving set piece, inventive performing space above, set pieces that move in and out for various scenes, and a red, nostalgic convertible that is “flown” in from above.
Tina Ross, as costume designer, has done a beautiful job of costuming the show. She and her crew have brought a visual delight to the stage, in both color and style, which are right on the mark for the period. Hanna Horsley’s direction as props mistress has ensured that every additional detail needed onstage is provided. And sound designer Kelly Rhoads has provided the elements needed for great sound, an absolute must for an entertaining musical.
Anthony Nelson has directed another solid hit with SCP’s production of “Grease.” It is ideal entertainment as the summer begins and runs through June 24.