There are worst things MPC could do than put on everyone's favorite rock 'n' roll musical.
Thursday, August 15, 2002
Photo: Greased Back-tight skirts and ducktails are the rule in MPC''s production of Grease.
Thanks to a terrific cast, a talented band, gravity-defying choreography and solid direction, Monterey Peninsula College''s production of Grease is a delight. The script, however, is another matter.
Grease is the story of a passel of high school friends making their way through the nostalgic year of 1959. They are the fast girls and bad boys, the vamps and the rebels without a cause. Into their raucous midst sashays the sweet and virginal Sandy, who over the summer struck up a romance with head naughty boy Danny. Now, back at school, she just doesn''t fit in with his crowd. She''s way too pure. When the boys find she won''t sleep with them, they lose interest. When the girls find she won''t drink with them, they make her life miserable.
What to do, what to do? Why, trade in your Peter Pan collar for décolletage leopard-print and your oxfords for stiletto heels, of course. The message at its foundation is disturbing, and at the moment of Sandy''s transformation, one is left more troubled than relieved. Is she anything more than a weak-willed child? She begins the show in thrall to her father''s expectations and ends the show in thrall to her peers'' demands.
But Grease is a musical, after all, and shouldn''t be expected to rise to lofty heights. And none of the writing is either the fault of or a barrier to the sterling cast. Each of the actors playing the nine original friends is a terrific singer, an athletic dancer and an appealing actor. It hardly seems fair to single any of them out, but a few performances deserve special mention.
As the brassy Betty Rizzo, Erica Racz is flawless. This young woman belongs on stage; she owns it from her first entrance. Sure, she''s tough as nails, but she doesn''t miss the vulnerability beneath the cruel exterior. Racz leads the audience on, promising more with every scene, and makes good when she nails "There Are Worse Things I Could Do." It is the one moving moment in a lighthearted show.
Ronald M. Livingston is very likeable as Danny Zuko. He has proven himself time and again to be an excellent dancer and singer and turns out to be a charming actor as well. His "Alone at a Drive-in Movie" is worth the price of admission. While it is difficult to completely buy his relationship with Sandy, that is really the fault of the script, not the actor.
Another standout is Kyle Richlin playing Roger, famous for having mooned half the town, including the frosty English teacher, Miss Lynch. Richlin performs Susan Cable''s athletic and demanding choreography flawlessly and with obvious joy. He excels as a singer, making "Mooning" one of the highlights of the show. He creates a charmingly goofy and likeable character. Frankly, though, his final moment in the curtain call, living up to his character''s claim to fame, could have been a little too much information.
In a cameo appearance as the Teen Angel, Maegan Ruiz-Ignacio does wonderful things with one of the show''s enduring hits, "Beauty School Dropout."
The excellent band, led by renowned guitarist Tom Ayres, is tight, together and exuberant. As a final treat, the band jams for its post-show play out, allowing for inspired solos from its cast of great players. It''s a fitting end to a fine production.
Grease plays at Monterey Peninsula College through August 25th. For tickets and information phone 646-4213.