As years go by, “Grease” becomes more like a period piece as new generations of performers take us back to high school in 1959.
Kelrik’s production of the lively musical version showcases a talented group that gives it just the right tone — lots of good singing and dancing, and acting that is just slightly tongue in cheek. Erik Austin directs the well-chosen cast, with actors who are not only good, but also look their parts.
Handsome Brady Beckstead, with greased hair and leather jacket, is Danny Zuko (played by John Travolta in the movie). He has all the right moves, and sings and dances with high intensity.
Sandy Dubrowski, the girl who had a summer romance with him but is spurned by him at school, is played by Ali Peters. She goes from plain and prim at the beginning to a biker bombshell in the end. Peters has a strong singing voice, with just a bit of country twang, and she’s a good actor.
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The story is told in brief scenes linked with 20 songs and some high-energy dance numbers. Lacey McNamara is musical director and Austin and Holly Patterson are co-choreographers.
The cast of 17 includes the Pink Ladies, a clique of girls who think they’re cool as they smoke and drink cheap sweet wine, and the Burger Palace Boys, who are a mix of klutzes, clowns and Danny Zuko wannabees. An ensemble of four girls adds to the song and dance numbers.
There are familiar faces in the cast, as many of them have been seen in area shows. In some other productions of “Grease” the actors are sometimes too old to be believable as high school students, but in this one they get by well, with most of them about college age.
Holly Patterson, a college bound graduate of Nipomo High, plays Frenchy, the girl who quits high school to go to beauty school. Emily Segal, a UCSB student, is sharp tongued as Betty Rizzo, the “bad” girl in the crowd, and Emily Chau, a Cal Poly theater major, plays Jan. In other versions, Jan is an overweight eater, but in this one, the petite Chau, always eating, is cute and comic. Kathryn Whistler, also a Cal Poly theater student, is good as Marty, and Makayla DuBois is the self-important Patty. Bailey DeMott dances up a storm as Cha Cha.
Each of the Burger Palace Boys has a distinct personality. Cody Pettit is Kenickie, second in command to Danny, and Michael Rogers, Lester Wilson, Gryphon Strom and Michael Dyatt round out the colorful characters who add comic moments to the brief dialogue, as well as sing and dance.
Austin himself stars in the most hilarious number as Teen Angel, a bigger- than-life dream of Frenchy, the beautician. In a sparkly silver suit and with feathered wings, he struts, dances and emotes, accompanied by a chorus of girls wearing heads covered with curlers.
The set is one size fits all, with iconic images of the time decorating the stage, where scenes change with props, including a cardboard car named Greased Lightning. The references to the era include mentions of Fabian, Sandra Dee and Paul Anka — names that may not even register with some of the youthful actors. The dialogue is also telling. As everybody smokes, one girl urges Sandy on: “Try it, it ain’t gonna kill ya.”
This is fun, and the best thing about it is the singing and dancing. It’s one of those shows that sends you out with a smile on your face.