Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It's reunion time for the class of '59 with the return of "Grease" to the National for a run ending Feb. 13. There are no midweek matinees, but the Tuesday-Sunday schedule includes matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2.
Which means, with five performances from Friday nights at 8 to Sundays at 7, E Street should be a hot spot for the frozen. The cast, which always seems like some miraculously preserved charming monsters of the '50s, is swell but anonymous. Still, considering such "Grease" graduates as John Travolta, Adrienne Barbeau and Barry Bostwick, you can't really tell what favorites may spring from the current National cast. At all events, they all know what they're doing.
This "new '50s musical comedy," with book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, now ranks as one of our theater's oddest phenomena. It began with a modest Chicago production, and later arrived at New York's small Eden Theater under auspices of one of the youngest-known producing teams, Kenneth Waissman and Maxine Fox. That was Feb. 14, 1972, and a few months later "Grease" moved uptown and now ranks ninth of Broadway's long-run successes.
How come? Granted, there were a batch of high schoolers back in the '50s and there was an overlap into the '60s so the nostalgia angle is pertinent. A second factor seems to be repeaters, those who go back whenever they feel their youth slipping. Someone in Tuesday night's audience decided to make a lot of money so he could afford to give a performance to his classmates in 2009 at their old school auditorium. "Grease" attracts the swinging sentimentalists.
A key line may well be: "Betty Rizzo thinks you look like Pat Boone." Now this was not the Pat Boone set and, since in the days young Elvis was king, it amounted to a Brilliant put-down. Danny Zuko, the toughest of the Burger Palace Boys, is a softie at heart and Rizzo's Pink Ladies, hard as spike heels, will give what business they can to Frenchy when she flunks out of beauty school.
A key factor, too, is the choreography which spotlighted Patricia Birch, a long-time Broadway dancer who since has won all sorts of honors for the dancing in "Pacific Overtures," "A Little Night Music," "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" and "Over Here." With the beat-beat-beat rhythms of the Jacobs-Casey score, Birch took off for the vital angularities of the early rock age.
Tom Moore's staging and Douglas W. Schmidt's evocative sets are continuing virtues for the present cast of 15, with Adrian Zmed's Danny, Lorelle Brina's Rizzo, Peggy Lee Brennan's Frenchy and Andrea Walters' Sandy topping the principals. There's also a spirited performance by Vincent Otero, quoted in the "Who's Who" as declaring "he will continue in the role of Roger until he gets it right." He gets it right but he shouldn't stop.