The bottom line
Like the juiciest burger in town, Grease — playing at at the 5th Avenue Theatre through Aug. 2 — will give you everything you crave this summer and more. A refreshingly diverse cast, including some of Seattle’s newest and best talent, beautifully performs this classic musical. You may, like me, leave a “Hopelessly Devoted” fan.
As someone who married her high-school sweetheart, I was swept away by the memories of first loves and fast fun with friends. As the parent of a future teenager daughter, I left a bit terrified by the scene of “sexy” Sandy and of what might be ahead for us parents of younger kids.
A mom of three, I don’t get out much these days. So when I do manage to pawn off all three of my children and get a night out on the town with a close girlfriend, I really, really hope I won’t be disappointed. I’ve seen this musical in New York, London and on the big screen, so I was a bit hesitant going in, wondering secretly if the best performances of Grease were behind me.
This was not the case. Tacoma native director Eric Ankrim stays true to the script we all know and love, while the creative costume and set designers give what could easily become a tired classic a much-deserved makeover. I actually found myself wondering if I could pull off a few pantsuits and high-waisted skirts without looking like I was trying too hard.
In terms of the talent, Bryan Gula leads the charge as the love-struck greaser Danny Zuko. I was thrilled to find out that while not on stage, this talented actor is a budding entrepreneur and informatics student at the UW who recently launched a start-up company. (He must not have kids.)
Gula has a sweet and authentic chemistry with newcomer Sandy Dumbrowski, played by Solea Pfeiffer (who is pursuing a BFA in Musical Theater at the University of Michigan). Pfeiffer plays this role with the perfect dash of lovely innocence (including a sweet yet powerful vocal range) — you just need to overlook the fact that she is a brunette. In fact, the entire cast boasted incredible vocal prowess. My only critique was that the sound was a bit sharp; hopefully, they are working out kinks with the microphones for future performances.
For me, the top performance of the night was the leader of the Pink Ladies, the sassy Betty Rizzo played by Kirsten deLohr Helland. She breathed new life into this role, from her leopard-print hot pants to her charisma and impressive vocal range.
“Beauty School Dropout” was by far my favorite scene. Huge props to the lighting director Tom Sturge, who created a heavenly purple and pink glow, and to set designer Christopher Mumaw. And more kudos to the costuming genius who dressed the angel’s back-up dancers in adorable negligees with old-school hair salon hood dryers painted gold and cleverly attached to the girls’ backs in a way that gave them playful movement while they sang and danced.
My second favorite scene was the dynamically choreographed “Grease Lightning” number, where the guys danced and sang their hearts out on top of the infamous car while tossing stolen hub caps.
Should you take your kids?
Nostalgia is a funny thing. Everyone has their own high-school story. And while teen wardrobes and technology change with the times, Grease reminds us that many things remain constant: love, gossip, peer pressure and having fun while trying to find yourself are all a part of growing up.
That said, the themes of sex, experimentation and profanity made me flinch a few times, knowing I was in the company of several parents who had brought their 6- and 7-year-olds. Signs around the theater gave this performance a PG-13 rating, and that seemed accurate. If you do take younger kids, prepare them for what they might see and hear. Find the full content advisories here.
If you go ...
When: Grease plays through Aug. 2 with a new added performance on Sunday, August 2 at 7 p.m. Great floor seats available!
Where: The 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle.
Tickets: $28 and up. Buy tickets online.
- Consider dressing up a bit and make time for a cocktail or happy hour before the show starts. The moment we stepped inside the theater I had major outfit envy of some brightly colored dresses.
- Eat before you go; intermission is short and lines are long. However, this tired mama did enjoy bringing a cup of refillable coffee into the theater for the second half.
- Kids under 4 years of age are not permitted but I was told that there is a cry room of sorts that can be reserved in advance under special circumstances, so don’t let a newborn hold you back from a night on the town.
- Also, you may want to bring a little cash. At the performance we attended, the 5th Avenue Theatre asked for donations for its Education and Outreach programs, which include 5th Ave. awards (high school musical awards), Rising Star Project (a fully-staged musical performed and produced by high school students), and Adventure Musical Theatre (a traveling troupe that visits schools throughout Washington and Oregon). Twelve of the 15 cast members in Grease came up through one of its Education and Outreach programs.