Grease by West Chester East High School in West Chester, PA
February 28, 2017
Review submitted by Jane Mentzinger of Westtown School
If you want to jam to some rock and roll or dance in your seat to the hand-jive, West Chester East’s production of Grease is the show for you. “We Go Together” is certainly true for West Chester East’s cast.
Grease is all about the Elvis Presley-fueled greaser culture of the 1950s. Written in 1971 by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, the show follows Rydell High Schoolers dealing with friendships, romantic relationships, and growing up. West Chester East performed the school edition, which takes the sex and drugs out of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Family-friendly was the goal.
The production was marked by energy, great dancing and a strong ensemble. The deleted story lines compromised the show’s dramatic power, but the cast made the absolute most of the fun musical numbers. The dancing was well executed and beautifully synchronized, which was particularly impressive given the large cast. The production took advantage of the big, talented cast by effectively expanding several typically small-scale numbers.
Georgia Naples, as Sandy, had a lovely voice, as demonstrated by her strong rendition of “It’s Raining on Prom Night.” John Fordyce played Danny, and he perfectly balanced the toughness that made him the coolest guy in high school and the sensitivity that made him Sandy’s soul mate. Naples and Fordyce had terrific chemistry, which was prominently displayed in their climactic “All Choked Up” number.
The big dance numbers made this show truly memorable. In “Greased Lightnin’” the cast wowed the audience by mixing the show’s iconic dance moves with innovative, creative steps. “Born to Hand-Jive” and “Shakin’ at the High School Hop” had the whole cast dancing in pairs, providing a visual change of pace and showcasing brilliant partner dancing. Kyle Puchalla, as Sonny, stole several scenes with great one-liners and hilarious body language. James Shafer and Jamie Cohen, as Roger and Jan respectively, were endearing in their comic but still romantic duet, “Mooning.”
The stage crew moved sets quickly and seamlessly, often while half the cast was on stage dancing. The orchestra provided perfect accompaniment, stand-alone great music, and 50’s spirit. The conductor even wore a pink lady jacket!
Everyone walked out of West Chester East humming.
Review submitted by Carly Goldberg of Phoenixville Area High School
Navigating love and friendship is never easy as a teenager, and West Chester East High School captured the highs and lows of senior year in their energetic production of Grease. Their solid 1950’s throwback was a fun and family-friendly tribute to the classic movie.
Grease first premiered on Broadway in 1971, and the iconic film based on the show was released in 1978, starring Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta. It went on to inspire the unsuccessful Grease 2, but remains a favorite American film.
The story of Grease follows the romantic path of Sandy Dumbrowski and Danny Zuko, two high school students in a summer fling. As they return to school and realize that they now go to the same building, Danny rejects Sandy in front of his cooler friends, and Sandy tries to move on. Other romantic encounters occur between Danny’s group of friends, the Burger Palace Boys, and Sandy’s new squad, the Pink Ladies.
West Chester East’s take on the show was fresh and lively, with a marvelous cast that really reflected the spirit of the show. Sandy and Danny (Georgia Naples and John Fordyce, respectively) led the show with impressive chemistry and great vocals, even overcoming slight microphone issues. Their relationship was convincing and their reconciliation occurred perfectly with “All Choked Up” at the end of the musical.
The supporting cast filled out the show quite nicely as well, with the sassy Rizzo (Odessa Acker) and peppy Patty Simcox (Casey Knipe) contrasting each other in every scene. The comedic Sonny LaTierri (Kyle Puchalla) used his humor to add to the show, and the adorable duo of Jan and Roger (Jamie Cohen and James Shafer) nailed their romantic rendition of “Mooning.”
The ensemble was another highlight of the show, as they filled the stage with high energy and well-executed dance moves. Their facial expressions showed a great level of engagement in the show.
Overall, West Chester East High School’s production of Grease was an exciting and peppy spectacle that could surely give the movie a run for its money.