Staley Carter and Ryan SandrewThe first senior class of Canyon Crest Academy is graduating this year, so what better way to send them off then that musical about high school seniors. That one set at the end of the 1950s filled with Greasers and Pink Ladies and nerds and rock ‘n’ roll and a Teen Angel from that malt shop in the sky. The musical called Grease. And with their always-talented group of students and their new director Jeannine Marquie, they’re sending the Class of ’08 out with a fun, fresh, and sometimes edgy production.

Ryan Sandrew is Danny, the head of the Greasers whose ultra-cool persona at school becomes a liability when Sandy (Kelsey Knox), the nice girl he dated over the summer, ends up at Rydell High. Ryan certainly has the personality for Danny and hams it up well in Alone at the Drive-In Movie (while his friends come crawling across the stage toward him as the backup chorus). Kelsey shines in the All Choked Up duet finale (replaced by You’re the One That I Want in the film) when she sheds her goody-girl image to send Danny and all the other guys reeling.

Unlike the movie, the stage version is more episodic in nature, giving most of the guys and gals more of a chance to shine. Which is good for this cast, because they have so many actors to show off. Zoe Katz is a hoot as the ditzy Frenchy, and it comes as no surprise when she accidentally dyes her hair pink. This leads her to wish for “one of those guardian angel things” Torrey Mercer, Kelsey Knox, and Zoe Katz (she waves her arms like flapping angel wings) to come help her. Enter malt shop-ish angel Estevan Montemayor giving Frenchy sage advice on going back to high school – advice that is promptly ignored as Zoe tosses away a mini diploma, then instantly regrets it as her angel and his assistants immediately begin heading away despite Zoe’s amusingly apologetic body language. Tiffany Gaines is a hit as she leads the ladies in a ballad to Freddy her love while flaunting her kimono from Fred during a number filled with great singing and sauciness from Tiffany and her Pink Ladies. Torrey Mercer is charming as the always-eating Jan who wishes she could have been there when Roger (Matt Herman) was mooning people. After they both process that wish on a suddenly still seesaw, they resume seesawing while crooning about Mooning.

Giving the show its far more serious side is Cindy Mersten with as powerful a portrayal of Rizzo as you’re going to see. You can always feel the hurt, unhappiness, and anger simmering under her sarcastic exterior. It boils over when she makes fun of Sandy in Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee as she bitterly comes on to all the Greasers, causing them to turn away in awkward embarrassment. In the end, afraid she is pregnant and ashamed to be standing in front of the person she’s been antagonizing out of a vague jealousy, Rizzo breaks down with an emotional There Are Worse Things I Could Do as she finally lets her hurt show.

And then there are all the sex-obsessed adolescent Greasers. Wyatt Gastil leads them all in some Greased Lightning action, raving about his new clunker of a car for which “the chicks will scream,” with Wyatt then demonstrating exactly what sound those chicks will make. Doody (Izzy Pollak) leads the company in Those Magic Changes, and later gets caught licking pages of some magazine...

Other standouts include Staley Carter as hilarious cheerleader Patty Simcox, Connor Murphy as the nerd Eugene with whom Patty keeps getting stuck with, Carmen Dutton as the less-than-ladylike Cha Cha, the highly expressionable Caitlin Curl as both the prudish Miss Lynch of the 1950s and as the elderly Miss Lynch at the class reunion, Andrew Abrams as the charismatic Vince Fontaine, and Spencer Meredith does a nice job as Johnny Casino leading the band at the high school dance.

The dancing throughout this show is terrific, thanks in large part to the creative choreography by Liv Isaacs. Those Magic Changes include a chorus of arms and legs waving back and forth to the ballad, Greased Lightning has the guys trying their best to show off and look cool with lots of jumping off the car, and tons of other fun, original, occasionally racy dancing for Hand Jive and other big ensemble numbers combine to help set the tone that pervades Jeannine Marquie’s show and ensures that the talented group at Canyon Crest and their first graduating class will go together into their summer nights in a memorable way.

Performed March 14 - 22, 2008.

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~
Torrey Mercer, Cindy Mersten, Zoe Katz, and Tiffany GainesEnsemble: Ashley Abed
Vince Fontaine/Ensemble: Andrew Abrams
Ensemble: Leandra Baldwin
Patty: Staley Carter
Miss Lynch/Ensemble: Caitlin Curl
Cha Cha/Dance Captain: Carmen Dutton
Marty: Tiffany Gaines
Kenickie: Wyatt Gastil
Ensemble: Justin Gleiberman
Roger: Matt Herman
Frenchy: Zoe Katz
Sandy: Kelsey Knox
Ensemble: Alex Lopez
Ensemble: Briana McCloskey
Ensemble: Evan McCree
Jan: Torrey Mercer
Johnny Casino/Ensemble: Spencer Meredith
Rizzo: Cindy Mersten
Teen Angel: Estevan Montemayor
Eugene: Connor Murphy
Ensemble: Jake Picker
Doody: Izzy Pollak
Danny: Ryan Sandrew
Sonny: Austin Wermers

Director: Jeannine Marquie
Music Director: Cory Hibbs
Choreographer: Liv Isaacs
Stage Manager: Kyle Pollitt
Technical Director/Lighting Designer: Becky Pierce


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