Review: ‘Grease’ national tour

I tried a half dozen times to capture my experience at the national tour of “Grease” that ran at Clowes Hall on March 22-27 without sounding excessively nasty, cynical, angry, and sad.

Those feelings seem wildly out of proportion for a seemingly thrown-together production of a thrown-together musical. So I considered throwing out this review altogether.

But I’ll try one more time.

Having sat through the non-Equity tour—cast largely with “first time on a national tour” young performers—I have a newfound appreciation for the film version.

Admittedly, unlike the millions that turned the movie into a blockbuster and still re-watch it with nostalgia for its ‘70s nostalgia for an imaginary ‘50s, I was never a fan. Give me “American Graffiti.” Give me “West Side Story.” Heck, give me “High School Musical.” I take little pleasure in a few fun songs hidden in the unfunny story of a girl who learns to tart herself up to be accepted by a bunch of narcissistic jerks.

The stage musical, as written, is far worse, giving the actors little to play, little differentiation of relationships, and zero motivation for Sandy to turn into a tramp. By the time she pulls her teased-and-tight-look, she’s already got Danny interested again and seems to have the friendship of everyone but Rizzo (unless she’s really got a thing for Rizzo … hmmmmmm).

Caring about such a thing, though, is difficult in a show that doesn’t seem to care itself about anything, not even being funny.

No favors to the material are done in the production that came to Clowes Hall as part of the “Broadway” in Indianapolis season (I put that in quotes, because not a single member of the cast has an actually Broadway credit to boast of in the program). When the highlight of a “Grease” production is Doody (Marc Winski) singing “Those Magic Changes,” then something is seriously off. Eddie Mekka, the touted star of this production, didn’t even make it to Indy.

There I go again, sounding excessively nasty, cynical, angry and sad.

But let’s be positive.

If you like musicals and think this show was even remotely tolerable, then strongly considering seeing some of the far superior work being done locally by the avocational Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre (this fall’s “The Drowsy Chaperone"), Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre (opening “Annie Get Your Gun” this week), and  the Phoenix Theatre (with “Avenue Q” on the horizon).

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