HUTSON: Spring production of ‘Grease’ captures musical charm


Do not walk into the Patti Baker theatre expecting to see the film Grease on a stage. RHS Theatre Co’s rendition brings something new and refreshing to the stage. Well, not “new” but new to most who aren’t familiar with any version of Grease beyond the movie.

Don’t be disappointed that you aren’t getting see your peers recite every line from the most done production in America because they are showing you something new and new is always better, right? Okay maybe not but this time it is.

I’ve had the pleasure to work very closely with drama program and have become familiar with them and their process. I also know that they have been rehearsing since December. Four month’s rehearsal boiled down to one show is somewhat unfair so I viewed the show twice before giving my final professional opinion.

Grease was a step up in ambition from last year’s musical, 25th Annual Putnam County. Don’t get me wrong last year’s musical was just as fabulous but seeing as that isn’t the most iconic musical in high school culture, I would say they took a leap … and stuck the landing.

The musical number hit a broadway standard. The T-birds were fabulous in “Greased Lightning” especially in terms of dancing considering many of them were not familiar with the field. Nick Bailey bodied “Those Magic Changes.” Had he been casted as Doody in the movie version, I doubt they would have cut it.

It is no surprise Emily Botnen was wonderful as Sandy. Some might just stick this to type casting but anyone who has viewed any other of  Botnen’s shows know what a phenominal actress she is and could have turned it out even if she was Danny Zuko. Not to mention her rendition of “It’s Raining on Prom Night” brought me to literal tears. It was even better than Olivia Newton John’s performance of “Hopelessly Devoted to You.”

Now AJ Welker (Marty) on the other hand reflects no qualities of her character in real life but she morphed into Marty as soon as the lights hit her.  Though Marty is often a side pink lady, Welker brought her to the front of the stage and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

In fact all the pink ladies from top to bottom seemed to really step into the skin of their character. I think a part of this was due to the wonderful accuracy of the costume design done by Kelly White, mother of director Ashley White. The silhouettes were clean and perfect for the time period of Grease.

But enough about the pink ladies; what about the T-birds? Well I was satisfied with their performance but I feel that they have it in them to do more. I needed more bad boy attitude, I wanted more James Dean and less Gregory Peck. They were good enough but they could do better, they just seemed to be upstaged by their female counterparts.

Of course it is the people behind the stage that makes the engine tick. Stage manager, Dominique Beasom has outdone herself. I was impressed when I saw Noises Off, which she also stage managed, but I was stunned when I saw Grease. The use of lighting really leveled the show up. For example, Annabelle Tiznado (Rizzo) had a stream of red light on her as she sang “There are Worse Things” where as Botnen had halo of white light on her as she belted “Sandra Dee revised” immediately after. Just little details like this make you feel like you’re attending a broadway show.

You can catch the show running March 30 through April 1 and April 6-7. The show begins at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are only $8. As an avid supporter and fan of RHS Theatre CO. I highly recommend you attend at least one showing.