MILL HALL - For cool entertainment during the hot "Summer Nights," "Grease Is The Word."
Millbrook Playhouse kicks off its historic 50th season with "Grease" with the breezy musical having 7:30 p.m. performances tonight through Sunday on the upstairs Ryan Main Stage.
The featherweight plot has Sandy Dumbrowski, having met greaser Danny Zuko during the summer, unexpectedly discovering they are now in the same school. Will their summer romance be rekindled? No matter, as there is always loads of singing and dancing as everyone welcomed back to the hyperactive Rydell High School by the "beloved" teacher Miss Lynch.
Actress Erin Long plays Sandy in Millbrook Playhouse’s production of “Grease.”
"Grease" works on different levels: as a musical, a comedy, a light romance and even a gentle satire of teenage life in the '50s. Millbrook's version works primarily due to the energetic cast and Michael Schloegl's direction and choreography. It is Schloegl's sure-handed - make that sure-footed - dance numbers, with all the jumps and lifts smoothly executed, that keeps "Grease" rolling along.
The show is fast-paced, with quick scene changes primarily due to the director's minimalistic sets. There's no cutout or "Greased Lightin' " semblance of a car but there is a creative use of sliding oblong box-like pieces, which also double for cafeteria tables and slumber party beds.
Miss Lynch, looking a bit like veteran Millbrook actor Richard Guido, welcomes the audience as school resumes.
Casey Shane, maybe the only cast member who looks like he may have failed a few grades, plays Danny, leader of the T-Birds, who are raucous but not really raunchy.
Erin Long, a recent graduate of Shenandoah Conservatory, plays Sandy finely singing the familiar "Hopelessly Devoted."
However, there is little chemistry between them until the final scene when Sandy is transformed from the pretty prude to sizzling bad girl to win Danny.
Ayelet Firstenberg got edgier as Rizzo as "Grease" moved into Act II. As leader of "the Pink Ladies," Rizzo invites Sandy to a pajama party with all the girls chirping "Freddie, My Love."
For community actors, there are two Central Mountain students, Amanda Hibbler and Kalli Haines, included in the cast. Another local performer is Johnny Haussener, a standout as Doody with a curl in the middle of his forehead.
Jen Morris shows humor as the pink-haired Frenchy, with Timothy Houston very funny as the nerdy Eugene and flamboyant as the crooning Teen Angel.
Other standouts are Sarah Michelle Cuc (Jan) and Josh Millhouse (Roger) as the show's most charismatic onstage couple.
Voices were excellent from everyone who sang solos to the ensemble. A lot of small comedic reactions in the background from the ensemble during the principals' dialogue added to the polished look.
But it is the high-energy, lively dancing that provides the "wow" factor. The boys' "Greased Lightin'," and Act I and Act II finale "We Go Together" prompted the opening night audience to whoop it up. And "Born to Hand-Jive" almost enticed the opening night audience to join in.
The curtain call during the final number was another nice touch to this production, which was a fun-filled, entertaining evening for everyone except maybe for Miss Lynch, who probably couldn't wait to ditch those pinching shoes.
To reach the box office, call 748-8083 or visit www.millbrookplayhouse.com.