Book, Music and Lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
Here is Rydell High's senior class of 1959: duck-tailed, hot-rodding "Burger Palace Boys" and their gum-snapping, hip-shaking "Pink Ladies" in bobby sox and pedal pushers, evoking the look and sound of the 1950s in this rollicking musical. Head "greaser" Danny Zuko and new (good) girl Sandy Dumbrowski try to relive the high romance of their "Summer Nights" as the rest of the gang sings and dances its way through such songs as "Greased Lightnin'", "It's Raining on Prom Night", "Alone at the Drive-In Movie" recalling the music of Buddy Holly, Little Richard and Elvis Presley that became the soundtrack of a generation. An 8-year run on Broadway and two subsequent revivals along with innumerable school and community productions place Grease among the world's most popular musicals.
A lively and funny musical-as well as the dancingest one in town. It's a winner...the songs are dandies [that portray] the early rockers with zip and charm. The sheer energy of Grease carries all before it."
- New York Daily News
Performances: July 20 - August 11
Saturday Matinees 3pm
Sunday Matinees 4pm
Note: Play has adult language, mild sexual content and may not be considered appropriate for children under 13.
Teen Angel/Johnny Casino
Kasey Lee Huizinga,
u/s Teen Angel
Melody Libonati, Director
David Hancock Turner, Music Director
Devon Allen, Lighting Designer
Julia Noulin-Mérat, Scenic Designer
Sarah Cogan, Costume Designer
Doug Shankman, Choreographer
Grease! Broadway's Greatest Rock & Roll Musical - Danny closes act 1!
"We Go Together"
Cast of Grease with original Broadway company cast members who atttended performance
Original Broadway Grease Company Cast Members attended Performance
"GREASE" A HAND-JIVE HEAVEN HIT
- Bonnie Goldberg CT Critics Circle
“GREASE" EMBRACES THE AUDIENCE
- Geary Danihy, CT Theatre News & Reviews
A Sassy, Electrifying Production
by Karen Kovacs Dydzuhn, Curtains Up: The Arts in Fairfield County
Since opening in New York City in 1972, Grease has been the quintessential retro musical that draws fans of 1950's music, fashion and humor. Celebrating its 10th anniversary season, the Summer Theatre of New Canaan delivered a sassy, electrifying production of Grease led by Christian Libonati in the leading role of Danny Zuko, leader of this gang of greasers, called the Burger Palace Boys.
From his first entrance as part of the opening number, Alma Mater Parody, Libonati is riveting and energetic. Whereas the thousands of actors who have gone before him in this role--think John Travolta in the film version--it's easy to slip into a caricature of the funny albeit dumb meathead/greaser type that every high school seems to have no matter what decade you are in. However, Libonati's Danny is seen in his twitching fingers and cocky walk to his swirling hips which are fully on display in the choreography for 'Summer Nights'. He is the giggling romantic ingenue who clearly is entranced with the girl of his dreams, Sandy Dumbrowski, even though she doesn't quite fit in with his friends and, as importantly, the image he has carved for himself. Libonati clearly demonstrates the ambiguity of every adolescent who is torn between pleasing himself and caving into peer pressure.
Overall, the male ensemble was strong. However, when Libonati was onstage, he had my full attention. His comedic timing was impeccable and I enjoyed watching his character's reactions onstage, especially when the focus wasn't necessarily on him.
Cristina Farruggi brings strong vocal chops to "There Are Worse Things I Could Do," a ballad sung by Rizzo, the show's tough girl and leader of the Pink Ladies. David Hancock Turner's music direction and Doug Shankman's choreography keeps the show swiftly moving. In the program notes, director Melody Meitrott Libonati said much of the production's spirit was inspired by the original Broadway show, which she was a part of. She gives credit to Broadway director Tom Moore and choreographer Pat Birch for the immense research that led to Grease's realistic characters and authentic '50's style moves. Ms. Libonati clearly knew her material well as she performed onstage in several roles both on Broadway and in national tours.
Watching New Canaan's Grease is the perfect way to spend a 'Summer Night.' (For those who don't know, this is another song from the show. By now, most audience members are familiar with the musical's soundtrack.)
It's fun, it's rockin', it's high school as you may remember it to be! Get your tickets to Grease now--the show closes on Sunday, August 11.
The Summer Theatre of New Canaan is also performing three children's show this season: The Little Mermaid, Jr., The Cat in The Hat, and Pinkalicous.
For more information and tickets, call the box office at 203-966-4634.
“Grease” Embraces the Audience
By Geary Danihy - CT Theater News and Reviews
Looking for something to do on a summer evening? Well, you might want to consider taking the whole family over to Waveny Park in New Canaan for an evening of rock-and-roll as served up by Summer Theatre of New Canaan’s production of the classic “Grease.” You might even have the opportunity to show your stuff with a hula hoop (for those of you who don’t know what a hula hoop is, simply understand that your elders were once as crazy as you are), or dance with the cast onstage. In essence, this “Grease” is a bright, breezy trip down Memory Lane that has been crafted by director Melody Meltrott Libonati to please just about every age group.
“Grease,” set in the 1950s at Rydell High School, opened on Broadway in 1971 and held the record for most performances until “A Chorus Line” came along several years later. The basic plot deals with the summer romance between Sandy Dumbrowski (Sharon Malane) and Danny Zuko (Christian Libonati) that founders on the rocks of a new school year and the roles the students are forced to play as members of various cliques within the school. Swirling around their on- and off-again relationship are such themes as gang violence, teen pregnancy and the ubiquitous teen angst and rebellion, but at STONC the harsher elements inherent in the original version have been, if not sanitized, at least toned down a bit. Though there’s still a touch of raunch, certainly not enough to bother the many “tweens’ who were in the audience the night I attended.
Setting the tone for the evening, before the curtain Vince Fontaine (Jason Law), the oleaginous local dejay, entertains with patter and the aforementioned hula hoop contest, and then it’s off to the Rydell class reunion, which is almost immediately parodied as we go back in time and the Pink Ladies and Burger Palace boys introduce themselves, letting everyone know exactly how they feel about good old Rydell.
From that point on, you just hold on as director Libonati puts the talented cast members through their paces, performing with brio such numbers as “Summer Nights,” “Greased Lightnin’,” “We Go Together,” and the over-the-top “Born to Hand Jive.” Choreographer Doug Shankman has done a fine job with this young cast, utilizing whatever room there is on the relatively restricted stage to full effect as the well-drilled cast shucks and jives.
As effective as the “big’ numbers are, it’s the softer ballads that seem to stand out the most. This is especially so for Malane’s “It’s Raining on Prom Night,” a heartfelt teen lament, and Cristina Farruggia as Rizzo is saucy and sarcastic as she delivers “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” and absolutely nails “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” – in fact, it’s the stand-out number of the evening. Running a close second is Adam Hill’s version of “Beauty School Dorpout,” as Teen Angel counsels Frenchy (Sarah Mullis) to give up her dreams about becoming a hair stylist.
The main focus, of course, is on the budding romance between Sandy and Danny, and Malane and Christian Libonati work up a nice chemistry as they find their way to true romance. Libonati’s Danny preens and cock-walks when appropriate, then turns affectionately boyish when alone with Sandy, save for his aborted attempt at making out at the drive-in, when Sandy unintentionally punishes him for his raging hormones.
The audience-embracing feel that director Libonati has created extends beyond the reprise of “We Go Together,” as the cast members come down into the audience and invite both young and old to join them back up on the stage for an impromptu high school hop. All in all, a great way to spend a soft summer evening.
Get On Your Dancing Shoes! GREASE Hits New Canaan
by Sherry Shameer Cohen - BROADWAY WORLD Reviews
The enduring popularity of Grease is hard to understand. The book by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, who also wrote the music and lyrics, is meh. It is simply not well-written and totally lacks the depth of South Pacific or Ragtime. The references to the big social issues of the time, such as teen pregnancy and gang violence were as sanitized as the stories in Greek mythology and the fairy tales of The Brother Grimm. Nevertheless, this production at Summer Theatre of New Canaan, directed by Melody Meitrott Libonati, more than makes up for the book's shortcomings.
Melody Libonati was pretty much faithful to the original production. (Some revivals included songs from the movie version.) She opened the show with flashy radio DJ Vince Fontaine (Jason Law. Wearing an animal print smoking jacket, he introduced the audience to the Summer Theatre of New Canaan and to remind people to shut off their phones. He smoothly exited the stage to allow the show to begin.
Everyone knows this story. Sweet, innocent Sandy Dumbrowksi (Sharon Malane) and Danny Zuko (Christian Libonati) are two of the working-class teenagers who are trying to get through Rydell High School and to find someone special. The others are the annoyingly perky Patty Simcox (Grace Harden), nerdy valedictorian Eugene Florczyk (Mike Bloom), Jan (Jennifer Ambler), Marty (Elysia Jordan), Bett Rizzo (Christina Farrugia), Doddy (Ben Simpson), Roger (Matt Spano), Kenickie (Dan Faber), Sonny (Bobby Godas) and Frenchy (Sarah Mullis). Jennie Joefree plays Cha-Cha DiGregoriao, the ace dancer who takes no prisoners. Adam Hill plays Johnny Casino (real name: Clarence) and Teen Angel, and Emile Roberts plays Miss Lynch.
The entire cast turns in solid and heartwarming performances, with Malane stronger as Sandy in the second act. Farrugia gave Rizzo some depth and poignancy in the number, "There Are Worse Things I Could Do." Dan Faber was a perfect match to Farrugia, giving depth as well as boldness to the role of Kenickie, and showing some good dance moves as well. Christian Libonati displayed exceptional showmanship throughout the show, with a bigger than life on-stage personality, terrific voice and highly skilled dancing. Anyone who wags his tongue about nepotism will bite it after seeing him perform. It is doubtful that someone else could have auditioned better for the role of Danny.
You will definitely leave the Summer Theatre of New Canaan rockin' and rollin' because immediately after the play the performers, led by Christian Libonati, pulled members of the audience to dance on stage. No doubt it was deliberate, but it seemed spontaneous, and that was another lovely surprise in this production.
GREASE" A HAND-JIVE HEAVEN HIT
By Bonnie Goldberg - CT Critics Circle
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 at www.stonc.com. 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."
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 Malache as Patty, Robin Fogel as Cha-Cha, Megan Duffy as Frenchy and Forbesy Russell and Melody Libonati who were both Sandys and also had the daunting task of covering 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 is currently touring as the grandma in "Billy Elliot." For Kathy Loesche, 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 Libonati has her directorial hat firmly in place at Summer Theater of 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.
STONC. The Summer Theatre of New Canaan is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit professional regional theatre company.