BRUNSWICK — I am fortunate to have the opportunity to take a guest with me when I review shows. For Maine State Music Theatre’s production of “Grease,” it was a special guest indeed. Laney’s mom Beth Schultz won a night at the theater with the Stage Door Diva for her 15-year-old daughter, and Laney chose to join me for “Grease.”

Having a teenager along, a few decades removed from the characters in the show, was an intriguing perspective for me. We wondered which came first, the movie or the play. The play has an interesting history, dating back to 1971 when the original production was created and produced in Chicago, with a bit more crude language and more regionalism. In 1972 it was taken to Broadway where it ran for nearly 3,400 shows, holding the title for longest running show for a short time. Since then, there has been a very popular 1978 film, Broadway and West End revivals, national tours and hundreds of productions by community, professional and high school casts.

It’s a fun show with characters we know, a plot we can quote and music we love. I owned the soundtrack on 8-track. The MSMT production brings a spirit to the story we’ve come to expect. The choreography, colorful costuming and music create the ‘50s period setting we recognize with wistful nostalgia, no matter when we were born.
Laney and I discussed our favorite parts of the show on the way home. We sat very close to the stage and I found myself particularly analyzing cast members, casting choices and the mechanics of performance.

“Grease” stars Neil Starkenberg as Danny and Chelsea Williams as Sandy at Maine State Music Theatre, running through Aug. 5. Photo by Roger S. Duncan

It’s a strong cast all around, with the talented and very likable Neil Starkenberg and Maine’s own Chelsea Williams headlining as Danny and Sandy. These two also played lovers Sophie and Sky in last year’s “Mamma Mia” at MSMT.

Laney liked Adolpho Blaire who played Rump. He was a bit larger than life, expressive and used a lot of physical humor to portray the stereotyped plump and funny clown of the Burger Palace Boys. He took strategic care to make his bits work and I’m pretty sure that’s his real hair standing straight up 4 inches.

My favorite was Lilly Tobin as Frenchy. She’s created her character with distinct choices of voice, facial expressions, eye placement, gum chewing and body language. She’s constantly working these facets whether she’s down center alone or dancing in the fourth row of a 30-person chorus. That impressed me and has to be taxing for the artist.

With more subtle characters, you can’t always see the machinations behind the characterization, and one plus of bold, unique characters is being able to discern the process.

Our favorite vocal performance was Gerianne Perez as Rizzo singing “There are Worse Things I Could Do.” Our favorite costumes were the fabulous outfits and shining wigs of the chorus for “Beauty School Drop-out.”

“Grease” runs at MSMT through Aug. 5. For tickets, call 725-8769 or visit www.msmt.org. Then go – and pick out your favorite characters, moments and songs from this fun nostalgic production.

Tamara Lilly is a Woolwich native with 30-plus years as performer, tech, producer, director, teacher, board member and staff at community theaters in Texas, Pennsylvania, and Maine. Find the Stage Door Diva Podcast on iTunes or stagedoordiva.com.
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