What an odd comfort we find in reliving the insecurities and pressures of high school. Audiences welcomed Grease, the story of a summer fling gone awry, as the Grand Theatre’s latest high school project.
Comprised exclusively of London area teens, the cast is perfectly suited to play the students of Rydell High. Each scene is full of energy and kept last Wednesday’s audience singing along to the familiar tunes.
Looking every bit the high school musical, the set is lined with black and white yearbook photos. “Greased Lightning” — the gang’s hot ride — is made of red painted wood and actually moves characters across the stage.
Casting for the leads, Danny Zuko (Tomas Pardo) and Sandy Dumbrowski (Jordan Spradbrow) was, for the most part, well done. Spradbrow is every bit the “Sandra Dee” and surprised the audience with her strong voice. In fact, she often overpowered Pardo. While Pardo’s strength is found in his raspy, tough-guy voice, he still left the audience dissatisfied each time he moved into song.
Better known by her last name, the character of Betty Rizzo is extremely well executed by Imogen Wasse. By far the most interesting character on stage, Wasse elegantly walks the fine line between strong and vulnerable. Finishing with her solo, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” Wasse establishes herself as the most likeable character — she’s crass, unladylike and pressures sweet Sandy to smoke, drink and pierce her ears, but at least comes across as real. Compared to Sandy’s awkward naivety, Rizzo’s character is a breath of fresh air.
One critique is the cast fails to infuse the show with the overt sexual desire typical of other Grease productions. But with this all-teen cast, less is actually more. The script’s lewd comments and boy-girl interactions are carried out on stage just as clumsily as they would be in a real high school.
Self-conscious but cute, the young cast had the audience laughing as they relived the best and worst parts of being young and in love — dances, first kisses and trying to find where you fit in the world. The audience watches love blossom that is decidedly unromantic, but love just the same.
The lyric “someday you’ll find me mooning at your front door” encapsulates the reason Grease is such a classic — no matter how long it has been since you left high school, there’s no forgetting those awkward teenage years.
Grease runs until Oct. 3. Most shows are sold out so visit www.grandtheatre.com for more information or call 519-672-8800 for possible day of performance availability. The Grand Theatre is located at 471 Richmond St.