Monday, July 29, 2013


Top:  The Reunion Cast of "Grease"  Bottom:  The Older and New Cast of "Grease"

You're going to want to turn the clock back at least five decades, dig out your old poodle skirt or black leather jacket, grease back your hair and get into the spirit of old Rydell.  With a giant photo of James Dean for inspiration, Summer Theatre of New Canaan is busy recreating the Rydell High School class of 1959 in the memorable musical "Grease" until Sunday, August 11.

All cheer leaders, lettermen, student council reps, class dorks and cool cats are invited to assembly hall where Miss Lynch (Emilie Roberts) is ready to read the riot act to anyone silly enough to break the school rules.  Summer is officially over and the Pink Ladies -Jan (Jennifer Ambler), Rizzo (Cristina Farruggia), Marty (Elysia Jordan) and Frenchy (Sarah Mullis) are opening their ranks to welcome the new girl Sandy (Sharon Malane) into their tight knit club.  Sandy, unfortunately, is sweetly innocent and untutored in the ways of smoking, drinking, ear piercing and sexual activities that the Pink Ladies take for granted as daily fare.

Sandy discovers that Danny Zuko (Christian Libonati), her summer romance, barely acknowledges her at Rydell:  it might damage his bad boy image.  This spirited and joyful teenage rebellion was penned by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey way back in 1971 but is still relevant and wildly popular today.

When Rydell sponsors a dance, a well known radio disc jockey Vince Fontaine (Jason Law) spins the records and oversees the big hand-jive dance contest.  While Sandy sits home alone, Danny wins the contest with a girl, Cha-Cha (Jennie Joefree) from a rival school.  Issues like teenage pregnancy, alcohol, petty thievery, gang violence, teenage rebellion and sexual exploration are juxaposed with friendship, love, and loyalty.

Danny and his pals Doody (Ben Simpson), Roger (Matt Spano), Sonny (Bobby Godas) and Kenickie (Dan Faber) are the proud T-Birds who run the school and torment the head cheerleader Patty (Grace Harden) and the class nerd Eugene (Mike Bloom).  Adolescent angst is evident when Frenchy opts out of Rydell for beauty school and is coaxed back to the fold by an encouraging Teen Angel (Adam Hill).  How Sandy transforms herself into a Pink Lady and into Danny's best girl are the stuff of this great musical.

Super songs like "Born to Hand-Jive," "Greased Lightnin'," "We Go Together," "Rock 'N' Roll Party Queen" and "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" add spice to the scenes. Melody Meitrott Libonati directs this fun visit to rock 'n' roll heaven, populated as it is with an angelic and devilishly talented cast.

For tickets ($32 and up), call Summer Theatre of New Canaan at 203-966-4634 or online  Performances are Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m.  All performances are under a big tent, rain or shine, in Waveny Park, 11 Farm Road, New Canaan (exit 37 off the Merritt).  The show is suitable for young teens and up. Other offerings for young audiences, until Sunday, August 11, are "The Little Mermaid," "The Cat in the Hat" and "Pinkalicious."  Make sure you go to see all the offerings of this fine Equity cast.

An added bonus to the opening night festivities was a reunion of members of the original 1971 cast of "Grease" on Broadway. Special guests that night, many who hadn't seen each other in over thirty years,  were Robin Lamont who played Sandy, Cynthia Darlow who was Jan, Kathy Loesche who starreded Patty, Robin Fogel as Cha-Cha, Meghan Duffy as Frenchy and Forbesy Russell and Melody Meitrott Libonati who had the daunting task of understudying all the female roles.  David Friedman who served as musical conductor on Broadway joined the ladies of Rydell for a discussion and reminscences.

Over the years, these ladies have exchanged their poodle skirts for a variety  of new roles, on and off the stage.  Robin Lamont starred in "Godspell" and then left show business to become a private investigator, attend law school, become a prosecutor and has written a trio of novels.  Cynthia Darlow remained treading the boards and just completed a two year tour as the grandma in "Billy Elliot."  For Kathy Meloche, it's being the proud mother of a daughter who just joined the cast of "Mamma Mia" and teaching ballet.

Robin Fogel has traded in her choreographing shoes to be a professional fundraiser for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation while Megan Duffy has expanded her theatrical career to include a PhD. in her chosen field as well as teaching, directing, improv, acting, writing and coaching.  For Forbsey Russell, raising three daughters has proven a full time occupation as well as teaching at a Boston conservatory.  David Friedman continues to conduct on Broadway and writes musical scores while Melody Meitrott Libonati has her directorial hat firmly in place at Summer Theater of New Canaan as well as at the Performing Arts Conservatory in New Canaan.

Come rediscover the joy and the angst of high school days as this spirited and energetic cast rock 'n' rolls into musical history. Don't forget your comb and bubble gum.

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