After Print - NME News: Grease IS the Word: "GREASE" at the Albuquerque Little Theatre
I have a secret dream - to be the first black Rizzo in GREASE. I am a huge fan of the beloved musical and the movies, yes, even the second one. So I was excited to hear that Albuquerque Little Theater made the decision to take on the classic and was ecstatic to see a preview before it opens tonight.
When I walked into the theater, the set screamed a 50's atmosphere with a red and black checkerboard covered stage. The Broadway style sign lit up preparing you for an amazing night. Back to the days of Elvis, Lucy, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, we are transported back to the year 1959 on the first day of school at Rydell High where the Burger Palace Boys and The Pink Ladies ruled the school. The opening of the show was electrifying as the cast sang Grease is the Word. From the playful staging of Summer Nights, to the smooth moves of Born to Hand Jive, each number harmonized beautifully into the next.
The show had some fan favorites and newcomers comprising the famous roles. Jessica Quindlen, who plays the simple and pure Sandy, was strongly committed in her role, showing the audience her greatest strength, acting. From the moment she stepped on stage, whether she is taking on the innocent "Sandra Dee" vibe or the Greaser's Dream Girl in leather, Quindlen was up for the challenge. First time actor, Kelvin Krupiak as Danny Zuko, was a delight. Both blessed with looks and a voice, Krupiak made Zuko all his own, giving the audience the attitude we expect from our Danny. Tasha Waters was the perfect choice for Rizzo. Sexy, brass and the definition of a Pink Lady, Waters' presence was felt the moment she stepped onto the stage. But she wasn't all about the attitude, Waters was able to dig deep and show the softer side of Rizzo, make her a real standout in the cast.
Two more standouts were Michael Rascon who played Kenickie and Colin Burdge who pulled double duty as Doody and Teen Angel. Rascon was not afraid to show the audience what we expect to see from Kenickle - a tough, no-nonsense greaser who can make the girls swoon. Truly Danny's right hand man, Rascon oozed hotness on the stage and was able to keep that toughness, even during the vulnerable moments with Rizzo. Burdge, a veteran of the ALT stage brought the strongest vocal chops to the cast. As Doody and Teen Angel, Burdge will be remembered as the magical voice in GREASE and does a sensational job as the gullible, youngest member of the Burger Palace Boys and the "Fairy Godfather" to Frenchy's dilemma in Beauty School Dropout - a real showstopper.
I was impressed with two other actors on the cast. Jan, played by Christy Burbank, is a character that I always felt didn't stand out as much as the rest of the Pink Ladies, but Burbank, who has a solid voice, made Jan stand out like I haven't seen before. She was funny, outgoing, but still awkward. Burbank showed that even though Jan may not always fit in, she will not be pushed around - the perfect Pink Lady. The other actor, who, in her 10 minutes on stage stole the scene, was Erin Allen as Cha Cha DiGregorio. Allen, who made her debut in another successful ALT production, CATS, presented us with a Cha Cha you have to see to believe. Her comedic timing was spot-on and her time on-stage was absolutely memorable.
Along with amazing music, I feel the dancing made the show. Can you truly imagine GREASE without dancing? With many musicals produced in town, directors and producers are so focused on the singing that they completely forget choreography plays an equally important role. It was brought to my attention that the majority of the cast members are non-dancers, so I have to applaud choreographers Edye and Erin Allen, for accomplishing two feats. One, teaching many in a large cast to dance and two, making them all look terrific on stage by focusing on the importance of movement . The choreography was deeper and more intense than I've seen from most musicals in the community, while taking into account the different levels of the actors. More musical choreographers should take a look at this production and follow suit.
All and all, I have a wonderful evening. From the cast, to the dancing, and the props, great detail was put forth to make this an exciting show for all those who attend and I encourage you to attend!