In 2010 a performer named Michel Bell appeared as Joe in a wonderful production of “Showboat” at The Muny. His magnificent voice stopped the show early in Act I.
“Grease” is not exactly in the same category of musical as “Showboat,” but when newcomer Teressa Kindle appears in ACT II as Teen Angel in the number “Beauty School Dropout,” she sends the audience into orbit with her amazing voice and spirited presence. I’ve not seen or experienced anything quite like it at The Muny since Michel Bell’s performance in 2010. Kindle is worth the price of a ticket just to see and hear her work.
The largest opening night audience so far this season, 9,166, welcomed “Grease” back to The Muny for its 6th visit. The first was in 1982. The turnout validated this show’s innate doo-wop appeal over the years.
Former Muny Kid and Teen, and recent headliner on Broadway, Taylor Louderman, appears as Sandy, the young lady forced to attend Rydell High School after the Catholic school didn’t like her shiny patent leather shoes. Brandon Espinoza is Danny, the with-it dude from Rydell who’s in with all the right people until he meets Sandy during summer vacation and falls for the “nice” girl.
Film & television star (and former St. Louisan) Phyliss Smith plays the school’s kindly but occasionally strict English teacher, Miss Lynch.
When you take your seat at “Grease” you’ll hear background music circa 1959…Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and the rest. Even a DJ character of that era, Vince Fontaine, played by Matt Saldivar, does the pre-show announcements…..reminiscent of St. Louis memories like Radio Park on Kingshighway and Johnny Rabbit when he was just a bunny. The first Act had a kind of clunky ending, perhaps because of opening night issues. They are very ambitious dance numbers, especially “Born To Hand Jive.” Four songs from the film version have been added to this stage production, including “Hopelessly Devoted To You.” Musical Direction by Michael Horsley keeps the beat moving. If you stick around a few minutes after the curtain, The Muny’s orchestra does a dandy little playoff that’s worth a listen. “Grease” is all kick-back and enjoy the memories this week at The Muny. So grab your pocket comb, jump in you rod and head for Forest Park. School’s back in session and all the cool kids are there.