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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2001

Summer school's in session

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The bad boys and girls of the Rydell High class of 1959 are strutting their stuff on the stage of Toledo Repertoire Theatre again, to the unending delight of audiences of all ages.

Since its Broadway debut in 1972, Grease become a classic, featuring such songs as “Greased Lightning,” “Born to Hand-Jive,” and “We Go Together,” and providing a venue where performers such as Rosie O'Donnell and Brooke Shields could appear on Broadway.

For its summer musical, the Rep offers a pared-down version of Grease on the Tenth Street Stage, with a limited cast (no chorus) and a few cursory set changes. But what it lacks in personnel, it makes up with boundless enthusiasm and fine singing and dancing.

Grease is basically a story about the class goof-offs and rebels, the students who want to graduate with as little effort as possible. These are the Burger Palace Boys, led by Danny Zuko (Rob Getz), and the Pink Ladies, led by Rizzo (Jennifer Nagy).

Into their midst comes Sandy Dumbrowski (Amelia Sheperd), a nice, strictly brought-up girl who moved into the town in early summer and ends up at Rydell High. Sandy's neighbor Frenchy (Leslie Cook), one of the Pink Ladies, introduces her to the rest of the gang, which includes Jan (Elizabeth Baldwin), Marty (Cynthia Stroud), and, of course, Rizzo, who has no use for goody-goody types.

When the Pink Ladies ask Sandy why they haven't seen her around, she tells them she had a sweet summer romance with a prep-school type. At the same time, Zuko is telling his buddies - Kenickie (Brady Sikorski), Roger (Nicholas E. Shaw), Doody (Kyle Rickner), and Sonny (Daniel Kline) - about the hot time he had on the beach with this new girl in town. The versions of the story are completely different and make a delightful counterpoint in the song “Summer Nights.”

When the Pink Ladies learn that Sandy's infatuation was Zuko, who obviously had been telling her a few tall tales, they decide to have a little fun, and Sandy is shocked to learn that Danny lied to her. She is even more shocked when he plays Mr. Cool and refuses to acknowledge that she's anything more than a cute chick.

But she's still infatuated by Danny, so she tries to fit in with the Pink Ladies, but going against the grain isn't easy for a good girl.

The Rep has pulled together a delightful cast for its production, with four strong leads in Sheperd, Nagy, Getz, and Sikorski. Their co-stars are equally good in smaller ways, especially Baldwin as the ever-hungry Jan. Hers is a role made for scene-stealing, and she takes full advantage of it.

One or two of the voices are not quite strong enough to be heard above the accompaniment of Dave Fioritto on keyboard, Mike Pawlak on sax, John Bogus on guitar, and Rob Donaldson on percussion, but the musicians generally maintain a good balance with their singers.

Troy Snyder's direction is so brisk and thoughtful that the lack of a larger cast becomes noticeable only once or twice throughout the production. The lighting could use a little work, however; it has a tendency to sneak to the side and cast shadows on those who are supposed to be in the spotlight.

One note: Grease is appar-ently the performing swan song of Sikorski, who is moving to the West Coast. The director of audience services at the Rep, Sikorski has appeared in such local productions as All in the Timing, The Mousetrap, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He is a fine talent, and Toledo's loss will be Seattle's gain.

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“Grease” runs through Aug. 5 in the theater at 16 10th St. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and tickets are $23. Information: 419-243-9277.



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