Powder and Wig strikes like Grease lightning
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Leonard Bernstein (of West Side Story fame) once said, "To accomplish great things, two things are needed: a plan and not enough time." The members of Powder and Wig are not new to the kind of manic creation Mr. Bernstein described. Last year, they put together The Rocky Horror Picture Show in one week. Could they deliver again with Grease--cast, rehearsed and staged in only eight days? Was there ever really a doubt?
From director Alex Bassett's introduction to the play, warning us to be prepared to get offended or to "get the fuck out" and the brilliantly sarcastic program notes, the show promised greatness even before a '50s-inspired ditty had been sung. In all honesty, Grease by its own merits, is kind of a crappy show (in this writer's opinion). It can only be propelled to great heights with a stellar ensemble cast and a solid director. Mr. Bassett's eye for the ironic allowed the show to revel in its kitsch and parody its own premise; he allowed it to be ebulliently raunchy and offensive. As the realization of this ironic vision, overstatement and exaggeration worked well in the actors' and actresses' execution of their roles and in the use of props. Case in point: Greased Lightning, Kenicke's "pussy wagon," is one of those cars parents buy for their toddlers to drive around in, literally. And when it is redone, it is drawn on cardboard. Time constraints? Perhaps. Sheer brilliance? Definitely.
And now for the actors who superbly created (and poked fun at) the 1950s subculture of working class greasers and their girls. As a side note, I want to recognize the people in charge of casting (whoever you are) for discovering major first-year talent and taking the risk to cast them in lead roles. Noah Van Valkenburg '13 as Danny lent an amazing voice to his character and worked so well as a suave and cocky bad-ass. First-year Mary Randall's deadpan delivery and lackadaisical mannerisms, combined with her fiery outbursts as Rizzo, did the word sarcastic etymological justice. And she was able to convey the same toughness in her singing. Savvy Lodge-Scharff '11 as Sandy sang beautifully and expressively, imbuing her character with innocence reminiscent of Amy Adams and at a single turn becoming a girl who is much more of the world. I only highlight these three, as they are the main leads, but all the T-Birds and Pink Ladies deserve recognition in their singing (as they all had solos) and acting.
The T-Birds (Van Valkenburg, Brian Russo '13, Dan Echt '11, Alec Oot '10, and Brendan Shea '11) worked well together creating care-free and foul mouthed male camaraderie and The Pink Ladies (Lodge-Scharff, Randall, Kelsey Jones '10, Katherine Gagnon '11 and Sammee Jaff '11) created the same, except catty and not male. My final note on the actors is for those who had speaking roles but were not T-Birds or Pink Ladies, the stock characters of high school: Abby Crocker as the cheerleader whose peppiness knows no bounds and Michael Clark '11 as the nerd (need I say more?) Without the chemistry between the actors, the show would have failed. Finally, kudos to our very own Bro Adams in a cameo as silk shirt wearing, beige suit sporting Teen Angel (the character's title, according to Wikipedia) who sang and, to his credit, danced.
So, bravo Powder and Wig, for staging such an entertaining adaptation of Grease and transforming a rather mediocre musical into a memorable spectacle in only 8 days. Great things accomplished indeed.