Grease is the time, the place and the word at Chanhassen Dinner Theaters.
For the first time in 10 years, “Grease” has returned to the main stage at CDT.
Resident Artistic Director Michael Brindisi, who played Kenickie in the first national tour of the show, brought back the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll musical by popular demand. Last seen on the stage in 2006, the show sold to 97 percent capacity for its entire eight-month run.
And, if opening night is any indication, CDT audiences will be hopelessly devoted to returning again and again for the 2017 run.
While many know “Grease” from the popular movie version starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, the musical is much more of an ensemble show. While the movie emphasizes the love story between Danny and Sandy, the musical emphasizes the friendship between all members of the two cliques.
It also gives each character a bit more of a chance to shine.
CDT decided to perform three songs made popular by the movie: “Hopelessly Devoted To You,” “You’re The One That I Want,” and “Grease Is The Word.” But, unlike in the movie, they kept most of the original score as well.
This means each of the Pink Ladies, and almost each of the Burger Boys, got their own number to sing.
The show was wonderfully cast. When it came to singing, there was no weak link among them.
Therese Walth was an incredibly charming Jan.
She brought humor, sass and just a touch of naiveté to the character, making Jan the role girls’ desire over Sandy or Rizzo.
Shinah Brashears was a perfect Frenchie. If anyone were to fill Didi Conn’s iconic shoes, Brashears was it.
Her energy, optimism and slight squeakiness was a perfect fit for the wanna-be-cosmetologist.
And, speaking of, perhaps the best performer was one the audience only gets to see twice – Kasano Mwanza.
Mwanza played the Teen Angel, who sings “Beauty School Dropout.”
While only on stage for a few minutes, he stole the show. His unbelievable range and unmatchable attitude made him an instant hit with the audience.
At times a few performers got a bit pop-star-esque and the tempo of “You’re The One That I Want” was a tad slow, but there was never a flat moment in the production.
“Grease” will leave audiences longing for the days when getting a date to the dance was your biggest concern and all friendships were lifelong. But, most importantly, it will leave them with a dance in their feet and smile on their face.
So, hang around the corner store and go back to high school with the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres’ ‘Grease.’